RT, March 15
The White House has dropped plans to slash the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan to 5,500 this year, AP reported. Official sources claim the withdrawal is likely to be much slower and have 9,800 US troops remain in Afghanistan well into 2016.
The report, citing unnamed officials, states that no final decision has been made, but discussions are ongoing about keeping US troops in Afghanistan or nearby even after 2016.
It is believed that US President Barack Obama will use Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit later this month as an opportunity to announce a new withdrawal deadline. In the past, Ghani made clear he wanted the pace of US withdrawal to be slower.
Data From Seized Computer Fuels a Surge in U.S. Raids on Al Qaeda
New York Times, By Matthew Rosenberg & Eric Schmitt, February 12
Washington — As an October chill fell on the mountain passes that separate the militant havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small team of Afghan intelligence commandos and American Special Operations forces descended on a village where they believed a leader of Al Qaeda was hiding.
That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.
American military officials said the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after members of the Navy SEALs killed him in 2011.
In the months since, the trove of intelligence has helped fuel a significant increase in night raids by American Special Operations forces and Afghan intelligence commandos, Afghan and American officials said.
AP, December 28
Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States and NATO formally ended their war in Afghanistan on Sunday with a ceremony at their military headquarters in Kabul as the insurgency they fought for 13 years remains as ferocious and deadly as at any time since the 2001 invasion that unseated the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The symbolic ceremony marked the end of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, which will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, most of them American, starting Jan. 1.
Gen. John Campbell, commander of ISAF, rolled up and sheathed the green and white ISAF flag and unfurled the flag of the new international mission, called Resolute Support.
“Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership” between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell told an audience of Afghan and international military officers and officials, as well as diplomats and journalists.
Reuters, By Jessica Donati, December 13
Kabul – Iran said it had agreed to extend temporary visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees for six months, lifting a threat to send them back home to a country facing attacks by resurgent militants.
Afghanistan — struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of people left homeless inside its own borders by a wave of violence — this month asked its neighbor not to expel the Afghan refugees who did not have the right documents.
Kabul said 760,000 refugees were at risk and it was not immediately clear what would happen to those who did not receive extensions.
CBS/AP, October 26
London – Britain has ended combat operations in the Helmand province in Afghanistan, defense officials said Sunday.
U.K. troops have witnessed the lowering of the Union flag for the last time at the Camp Bastion complex in Helmand, which they shared with U.S. Marines, who also folded up operations in Afghanistan in a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck on Sunday.
Every single combat Marine and British troop will soon board planes to head home – the exact date has been withheld for security reasons, reports CBS News’ Erin Lyall. It’s a milestone in Helmand, the deadliest province for coalition forces throughout the war, with more than 940 troops killed, including 360 Marines. Five have died this year.
U.S. and Afghan soldiers witnessed the British ceremony, which marked the end of operations for the Southwest Regional Command, a U.S. and U.K. coalition operating under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, British officials said.
U.S. ends operation at Camp Leatherneck Afghanistan
Base to be handed over to Afghan military control
NBC, October 26
American combat operation have ended in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
A ceremony at the Bastion-Leatherneck military complex Sunday marked the official end of the operations in Helmand. The US and British flags were lowered and folded up at the regional headquarters of the international military.
Reuters: Britain ends combat role in Afghanistan, last U.S. Marines hand over base
A deal signed Tuesday allows US forces to remain in Afghanistan after the majority of NATO coalition forces withdraw.
Al Jazeera, September 30
The United States and Afghanistan on Tuesday signed a long-awaited security pact to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country after the majority of NATO coalition forces withdraw at the end of the year, fulfilling a campaign promise by newly elected President Ashraf Ghani.
At a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar signed the document.
There are currently about 41,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2012. Most will leave after the international military force formally ends its combat mission at the end of 2014.
Under the terms of the agreement, troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a remaining force of 9,800 U.S. soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500. The foreign troops will be tasked with training and assisting Afghanistan’s security forces maintain stability.
People are allowed to think, say, and yes, even tweet whatever the hell they want, so long as their actions do not contravene the law. They are still American citizens:
Since Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2009, his father had become an expert on Guantanamo Bay’s detainees. It was out of necessity, because the Taliban demanded that the United States free prisoners from Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl.
“No family in the United States understands the detainee issue like ours,” Robert Bergdahl said in a 2011 plea to his son’s captors.
So it wasn’t entirely unusual when Bergdahl apparently published a tweet last week about Guantanamo’s detainees. Except this tweet was directed at a Taliban spokesman. And it came just four days before it was announced that his son was finally being released.
“I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners,” the tweet said, according to various screen grabs. The tweet was subsequently deleted. “God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.”
Washington Post, By Carol Morello, Will Englund & Griff Witte, March 22
Belbek, Crimea — Russian forces used at least four armored vehicles to break into an air base here, seizing control of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea.
After an hours-long tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces, gunfire and explosions could be heard as the vehicles broke down the gate at the air base located just outside Sevastopol. It appeared that at least two people had been wounded and were taken away in ambulances.
The assault on the base in Belbek came as an ominous mood was settling over the town. Russians and their many supporters want the Ukrainian forces to join their side or leave Crimea. Signs calling for the death of the base commander had been posted outside the installation.
Yuli Mamchur, the Ukrainian base commander, said he had ordered his men not to resist to avoid casualties.
“We have done everything we could,” Mamchur told his men after the Russians took over the base. “You acted with honor. There is nothing we should be ashamed of.”
Ukrainian troops spent the afternoon burning documents and toasting with champagne two lieutenants who were married on what may be the base’s last day in Ukrainian hands.
Also, WaPo: As U.S. war ends, Russia returns to Afghanistan with series of investment projects
President speaks with Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and says US is ‘moving forward with additional contingency planning’
The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman & Dan Roberts, February 25
Washington – Barack Obama formally ordered the Pentagon on Tuesday to make plans for a full pullout of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, pointing to a way out of the conflict that is reminiscent of his end to the Iraq campaign.
While the Obama administration reiterated that it would prefer to maintain a residual military presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign an accord that would pave the way for some US forces to remain. That has forced the administration to begin a contingency plan for a full departure after Nato formally ends hostilities in November.
A similar rebuke from the Iraqi government prompted all almost all US troops to leave there in 2011.
AFP-AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai yesterday said Washington should respect his country’s judicial authority after the release of 65 alleged Taliban fighters triggered US condemnation. “Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release the prisoners, it is of no concern to the US and should be of no concern to the US,” Mr Karzai told reporters in Ankara. “I hope that the US will stop harassing Afghanistan’s procedures and judicial authority”.
The release of the prisoners dealt a new blow to the relationship between Kabul and Washington, already badly strained by Mr Karzai’s refusal to sign an accord allowing some US troops to remain in Afghanistan after NATO’s withdrawal this year. The US said those who walked free were responsible for killing NATO and Afghan soldiers as well as civilians.
Informed Comment, By Alice K. Ross, February 13
Civilian drone deaths in Afghanistan tripled last year, according to a report by a UN agency. Forty-five civilians died in drone strikes in 2013.
The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), found that drone strikes accounted for at least a third of all civilian deaths in air strikes last year. Unama notes that it is sometimes difficult to establish which type of aircraft carried out a strike, so the true total could be higher.
The UK and US are the only countries to operate armed drones in the conflict. A December 2012 report by the Bureau found that the two forces had carried out over 1,000 drone strikes in the country in the previous five years. British drones have carried out over a fifth of all these strikes, despite having a much smaller fleet.
Related, Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Revealed: US and Britain launched 1,200 drone strikes in recent wars (Recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq have seen almost 1,200 drone strikes over the past five years, according to new data released to the Bureau.)
CNN, By Mick Krever, February 3
Despite spending $10 billion in reconstruction money fighting narcotics in Afghanistan, the U.S. has “failed,” the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“If you look at production, if you look at cultivation, if you look at breaking the tie between the drug culture, the drug production, and the insurgency – if you look at all three of those indicators, we failed.”
Sopko is behind a damning new report alleging that corruption and incompetence in Afghanistan is putting a billion dollars in government assistance at risk.
Of the 16 Afghan ministries that the Inspector General examined, not a single one could be counted on to properly secure funds, the report says.
The concern when it comes particularly to narcotics, he said, is that the “criminal enterprise” operating in opposition to the Afghan government will grow too powerful.
“Those people don’t care about women’s rights, they don’t care about education, they don’t care about healthcare,” he said. “They care about making a profit.”
“If we don’t do something about them, if that isn’t a priority as we go forward, we could be risking every success that we’ve had over the last 12 years.”