Afghan Affection

November 7, 2014

map-afganistanBright shiny sunshine this afternoon, and a nice warm breeze, too.

In the quaking and shuddering over the midterms, one item just a week or so ago seemed to pass without much notice — the US Marines handed over control (the keys) to Camp Leatherneck, the huge military installation in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, to the Afghans. Thus, beginning an ending America’s presence in the region, and  the wrap-up to a forgotten, horribly-useless war.
Gen. James Amos, three years ago: “We can’t stay in Afghanistan forever.”

(Illustration found here).

Thirteen years and counting, though. The US has lost 2,346 troops since the war began in 2001, way-more than was needed. Yet in less than two years, the Afghan army has lost 9,000 — maybe more than 21,000 civilians.
And the war looks like it’s get ready to whiplash out of control. Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, a top commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said this week the Afghan army can’t keep it up:

“They do need to decrease their casualty rate,” he added, by improving protection against improvised explosives, boosting the quality of care at the point of injury and increasing their ability to carry out battlefield medical evacuation.
“All those things have to continue to improve … because those numbers are not sustainable in the long term,” he said.

And too late any hero. From International Business Times:

The handover and loss of territory comes at a difficult time for the country’s military, as the Taliban has inflicted the deadliest period for Afghan forces since the war began, underlining the enormity of the task at hand and raising questions about how the jihadist group has changed over the past 13 years of war and where it stands now.
“They remain a formidable fighting force and are conducting increasingly brazen operations across the country,” said Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow and expert on Afghanistan at Washington, D.C., think tank The Heritage Foundation.
“Over the last 13 years, they really have developed into a sophisticated force and have shown an ability to study U.S. and NATO strategy, patterns and found ways to continue attacks under different constraints.”

But what has been harder to broach is to what extent the Taliban is recapturing parts of Afghanistan.
The U.N. reported in mid-2014 that the Taliban was in full control of four districts (out of a possible 373) but had reached a ceasefire with Afghan forces in some towns, allowing the Taliban some level of authority and the ability to implement its own rules, schools, courts and general way of life.
The U.N. report suggested that around 40 percent of all towns and cities in the country have a “raised” or “high” threat level from the Taliban.
Other reports suggest that the Taliban is in charge of smaller areas that surround government towns, similar in tactic to what ISIS is doing in Syria and parts of Iraq, but the important difference with the Taliban is that by focusing on rural parts outside major cities, it is taking charge of the poppy fields and the lucrative drug trade.
The income helps pay for weapons and training.
This year’s poppy harvest was the most lucrative since records were kept.
The Islamic State group made similar moves to secure the oilfields when it began its own insurgency.

And will Afghanistan turn into a poor man’s Iraq? What will stop it? So, back to Camp Leatherneck, war never-ending, and a piece from NPR:

There are no seats in the planes.
The troops sat on their backpacks in the cargo bay for the flight to Kandahar.
One looming question was what would come next for the Marines?
Capt. Joseph Wiese served in Iraq in 2009 and helped the Marines transition from that war to Afghanistan.
“What the heck’s going on in Syria?” he asks.
“What’s going on in the rest of the world?
“Before we were (preparing) to go to Afghanistan and now the world’s not any safer, so job security looks good.”

Just in time, captain — President Obama today okayed an additional 1,500 more US GIs for the ISIS war in Iraq, and although there’s supposed to be no “boots on the ground,” but were will they stand?

And with war-crazed Republicans in power now, ‘job security‘ is indeed secure.

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