America’s longest war continues seemingly unabated — in southern Afghanistan, a “harrowing” situation:
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.
One American dead already…
(Illustration found here).
Apparently, the drama is even-more intense. In the town of Marjah, which the Taliban supposedly has ‘laid siege’ the last two months, more than a dozen US troops are trapped this evening, holed-up in a compound. A rescue attempt failed — two HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters were dispatched, one was either shot down by the Taliban, or experienced mechanical problems, crashed and was left on site, the other returned to base.
Never-ending ritual: ‘“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” Cook (Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook) said at a Pentagon news conference, and it was difficult to provide details on the Marja action that occurred as U.S. Special Operations forces came to the aid of Afghan Special Forces.’
Last year was the lowest casualty total for the US in Afghanistan since 2002 — 22 were killed in 2015. The latest death is the first of 2016.
Some background narrative on the situation this afternoon from Long War Journal:
Marjah, which was once described by General Stanley McCrystal as a “bleeding ulcer” in 2010 as US Marines fought to clear the Taliban from its stronghold, was one of the first towns in Helmand cleared of the Taliban during the US “surge.”
McCrystal said that clearing the Taliban from Marjah and surrounding districts in Helmand and Kandahar would bring an “irreversible sense of momentum” and lead to the Taliban’s defeat.
Instead, security in Helmand has spiraled out of control as the Taliban has pressed its offensive to regain the ground lost there between 2009-2011.
Of Helmand’s 13 districts, five are known to be controlled by the Taliban (Nowzad, Musa Qala, Baghran, Dishu, and Sangin), and another five are heavily contested (Nahr-i-Sarraj, Kajaki, Nad Ali, Garmsir and Khanashin).
Of the remaining three districts, The Long War Journal believes two (Washir and Nawa-i-Barak) are contested, but the situation is unclear.
Only Lashkar Gah, the district that hosts the provincial capital, has not seen significant Taliban activity. [See LWJ report, Taliban controls or contests nearly all of southern Afghan province.]
US and British special operations forces have been deployed to Helmand since the summer of 2015 to support the struggling Afghan forces.
However, the reintroduction of US and British forces in Helmand has not prevented the districts of Nowzad, Musa Qala, and Sangin from falling to the Taliban.
Outside of Helmand, the Taliban has significantly expanded its influence in the past year.
The Taliban now controls 40 districts in Afghanistan and contests another 39, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal.
These numbers may be low given the methodology used to assess control in contested districts.
And the “Forgotten War” bangs the drum on and on…