Afghanistan

Body of MAJ Brent Taylor, Utah mayor killed in Afghanistan, returns to US

The body of Utah mayor and Army National Guard major Brent Taylor arrived in the United States on Election Day — a somber homecoming his widow called “fitting.” Taylor, who was shot and killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, had only days earlier praised the Afghan people who fearlessly filled up polling stations during that country’s parliamentary elections and also exhorted Americans to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death represents so much more, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped casket on our Election Day,” Jennie Taylor said during an eloquent address in which she memorialized the ultimate sacrifice made by her husband. “The price of freedom surely feels incredibly high to those of us who know and love our individual soldier. The value of freedom is immeasurable to those who love American and all she represents.” Jennie ended her remarks by echoing Brent Taylor’s call to cast a ballot. “Brent himself put it best just days ago when he implored of us all, ‘I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote and whether the Republicans or Democrats win I hope that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us,” she said. Military officials said the 39-year-old North Ogden mayor was killed in Kabul by an Afghan commando he was training. The assailant was then killed by Afghan forces. Taylor is the eighth American killed in action in Afghanistan this year. Maj. Taylor had been expecting to return as Mayor Taylor in January. Aside from his wife, Taylor leaves behind seven children, ranging from 11 months old to 13 years old. “To say that our hearts are anything less than shattered would be nothing short of true deceit and yet to deny the sacred honor that it is to stand that close to some of the freshest blood that has been spilt for our country would be absolute blasphemy,” Jennie said. Following news of Taylor’s death, condolences poured in from far and wide. One of the letters was written by Maj. Abdul Rahman Rahmani, an Afghan Army Aviation pilot. Rahmani tweeted the letter, which he addressed to Jennie, saying he was a “better person” after meeting Taylor. “He died on our soil but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries,” Rahmani wrote. Taylor, a military intelligence officer with Joint Force Headquarters, served two tours in Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

As a former Military Intelligence Army (“field grade”) officer who also served in Afghanistan, this story really hits home on a personal level.  Our prayers are with Jennie and her kids during this heartbreaking time.  And, our thanks to Brent for his service and ultimate sacrifice.  For more, click on the text above.

Leader of ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan killed in US drone strike, officials say

The leader of an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, who was responsible for a spate of recent bombings that left hundreds of civilians dead, was killed in an American drone strike, U.S. officials told Fox News on Sunday. The deputy spokesperson for Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani announced the death of ISIS-K leader, Abu Sayeed Orakzai, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said. “I would also add that the United States unrelentingly continues its counterterrorism efforts against ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda, and other regional and international terrorist groups,” O’Donnell said in a statement. The airstrikes were launched in the Nangarhar province, near the border with Pakistan, according to Agence France-Presse. Ten other ISIS fighters were also killed. Orakzai is at least the 3rd ISIS-K leader in Afghanistan killed in the past 2 years. The Islamic State has lost around 90 percent of the lands bordering Iraq and Syria since declaring a caliphate in June 2014. The killing of Orakzai comes just takes after an audio recording of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi apparently resurfaced, in which he congratulated his followers on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday, and referenced Turkey’s recent quarrel with the U.S. over its detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. He purportedly said “America is going through the worse time in its entire existence,” and said Russia was competing with the U.S. over regional influence and clout. Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts has eluded captors since the rise of the Islamic State. His only public appearance was in 2014 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. His last know audio recording was released on Sept. 28, 2017, and there have been several reports of his death or injury. Next weekend, a new U.S. military commander will be taking over in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, the former head of Joint Special Operations Command which oversees the elite commando units Delta Force, SEAL Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment. The U.S. military has doubled its air strikes in Afghanistan over the past year and increased them fivefold over 2016 levels.

Another Islamic wako killed.  Score another one for the good guys!  Excellent!!       🙂

Outgoing U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson Says Trump’s Strategy Is Working

Army Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson said Wednesday in his last briefing as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan that President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy was working, citing progress in the peace process, or reconciliation, with the Taliban. “Ultimately, wars end with a political settlement. So the progress towards reconciliation is key. And the fact that we had been able to make this kind of progress [is] significant,” Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon. Nicholson said within six months of the new strategy, there were two peace offers on the table: an open letter from the Taliban to the American people, and an offer from Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. He said within ten months, the country held its first nationwide ceasefire in 17 years, over the Eid al-Fitr holiday earlier this summer. He said the ceasefire “unleashed” pressure on the Afghan public, who are demanding peace. He said Ghani has now offered a second nationwide ceasefire that could last through Nov. 20, the day of Prophet Muhammed’s birth. “So the progress towards reconciliation, which ultimately is what we want … which will enable a political end to the war, is perhaps one of the greatest successes of the strategy so far,” he said. Nicholson said he believes what brought about this progress was the Trump administration getting rid of the Obama administration’s timeline for withdrawal, and further commitment from NATO allies to extend security assistance to 2024. “This has affected the enemy’s calculus. And this is one of the contributing factors to why they’re now willing to — to begin talking about an end of the war,” he said. Asked by CNN why the current strategy was not recommended sooner, Nicholson faulted the Obama administration’s approach. “In the time that I joined this mission as the last commander appointed by President Obama, we were on a glide path to reduce our forces and eventually to close down the mission,” he said. “And so, at that time, the enemy had no incentive to negotiate because we were leaving. So in war, which is a contest of wills, the enemy believed that we had lost our will to win and that all they needed to do was wait us out,” he said. “I believe the South Asia Strategy is the right approach. And now we see that approach delivering progress on reconciliation that we had not seen previously. And I think that was because we clearly communicated to the enemy they could not wait us out. We were backed up by our allies,” he added. Nicholson acknowledged that there is an “impasse” on the battlefield in terms of control of territory or the population gained from the Taliban, but suggested it may no longer be the best metric for success. “We have looked at the same metrics over time. So now, as we begin to change those metrics — things like social pressure, religious pressure, reconciliation — all of these factors are part of the South Asia policy, they are things to be examined. And I think they are things contributing to the progress that we’ve seen towards reconciliation,” he said. “So I think we’re seeing the strategy is fundamentally working and advancing us towards reconciliation, even though it may not be playing out the way that we anticipated,” he added. However, he said there has been progress in growing the size of the Afghan commando force from 30 companies to 45. “These commandos are the ones that are able to turn the tide in any fight that they join,” he said. He also said the Afghan air force is now conducting about half of the airstrikes in Afghanistan. He said recently that over 250 fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’s Afghanistan branch, ISIS-Khorasan, and their family members recently surrendered to Afghan forces in Jawzjan in Northern Afghanistan, eliminating one of three “pockets” of ISIS in Afghanistan. He dismissed the Taliban’s efforts to seize two provincial capitals, calling them failed attempts. “Can they conduct attacks? Yes. Can they hold what they take? No.”

U.S. Troops Celebrate Independence Day amid Unrelenting Threat in Afghanistan: ‘We Fight for It’

U.S. service members in Kabul took a moment’s respite from the wave of terrorist bombings in Afghanistan in recent months to enjoy a lunchtime ceremony in honor of America’s 242nd Independence Day on the Fourth of July. “It’s an important holiday because we fight for it,” U.S. Army Cpl. Ruby Cruz of the 191st Regional Support Group Forward from Fort Allen, Puerto Rico, told Stars and Stripes in Kabul. Acknowledging that she missed the celebrations back home, she added, “But we have fun here, too, so it’s not too bad.” A barbecue dinner in the evening is expected to follow the Fourth of July ceremony at the headquarters of the U.S.-NATO mission known as Resolute Support (RS). “American flags could be seen in all corners of NATO’s Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday as U.S. service-members celebrated Independence Day,” Stars and Stripes reports. Honoring the birth of the United States at the ceremony in Kabul, U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, declared: ” For American servicemen and women who are deployed overseas, this day holds a very special significance, and it reminds us of the tremendous sacrifices made by previous generations of patriots in all of America’s wars in defense of liberty at home and abroad. …We hope Afghans will remember this, that reconciliation is possible between rivals.” Reconciliation between Kabul and the Taliban is the primary goal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy to end the nearly 17-year-old war. In recent months, both the Afghan Taliban and its alleged rival, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), have heavily targeted the Afghan capital of Kabul, including a meeting of the top Islamic scholars in the country last month. The U.S. military has deployed a brigade that consists of about 800 military advisers and a few hundred additional soldiers to tackle the wave of bombings that have been targeting Kabul, the Washington Post reported on July 1. In March, Gen. Nicholson expanded the American mission to prevent massive bombings in Kabul..

So much for that reconciliation..  Having spent some time in Afghanistan, myself, I can say with certitude and experience that the Taliban (and certainly ISIS) has NO intention of reconciling.  They’re just waiting us out, so they can take back control after we leave.  So, as long as we’re there, we should be using all of our resources to totally intimidate, humiliate, and crush the Talian and the rest of the Islamo-wackos there.  As for the troops celebrating our Independence while “down range,” we’re all thinking of you.

US Air Force B-52 drops record number of precision bombs on Taliban

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress dropped a record number of precision guided bombs on Taliban over the past 24 hours in Northern Afghanistan, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement Tuesday. The bombing was part of a 96-hour air campaign that struck training facilities and sources of revenue like narcotics. The strikes also aimed at stolen Afghan National Army vehicles “being converted to vehicle-borne” improvised explosive devices, the statement read. “The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of the unit, said. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group bent on bringing harm and destruction to this country.” The B-52, which was recently reconfigured with a “conventional rotary,” dropped 24 guided munitions. The U.S. military is pulling its forces from an American-led coalition base in Iraq and shifting them to Afghanistan following the defeat of Islamic State group militants in the country. Western contractors at the base say U.S. troops began the drawdown over the past week, with groups of soldiers leaving the base on daily flights. The exact scale of the redeployment was unclear. According to various estimates, as of 2016, there were more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq, with nearly 4,000 deployed to support and assist local groups fighting ISIS militants. The remaining personnel included special operations forces, logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations, the BBC reported.

Nice!  Score one for the good guys!     🙂

Air Force deploys A-10s to Afghanistan to ramp up Taliban fight

The U.S. Air Force has deployed A-10 Thunderbolt jets to Afghanistan for the first time in more than three years to provide close-air support for American and Afghan troops — the latest sign of escalating military operations and deepening U.S. military involvement by the Trump administration against the Taliban, more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks. “As we’ve applied increased pressure on the Taliban and their revenue sources with precision airpower, we’ve gained considerable momentum in our effort to force them to reconcile or face defeat,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, in a statement to Fox News. “As U.S. advisors move closer to the front lines in support of our Afghan partners, this additional airpower will give them the decisive advantage necessary to advance with confidence.” The newly arrived A-10s flew their first combat missions in Afghanistan less than 24 hours after arriving at Kandahar Airfield on Friday, January 19. The jets are from the 303d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. In addition to the A-10s, Air Force Central Command has sent more MQ-9 Reaper drones, and HH-60G helicopters used by Air Force special operations forces for combat search and rescue. The additional jets and helicopters will report to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, located an hour north of Kabul. The Air Force is sending 12 A-10 jets to Kandahar Airfield. The Air Force Reserve unit was previously scheduled to replace the A-10s operating out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to take part in the ISIS fight in Iraq and Syria — but with the terrorist group having lost 98 percent of the territory it once controlled due to in part a relentless air campaign, top military brass decided the jets were needed in Afghanistan to support Afghan and American troops on the ground. The U.S. Air Force says more than 4,300 bombs were dropped last year in Afghanistan, far fewer than the nearly 40,000 dropped against ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the same period. This fall, 3,000 additional U.S. troops arrived in Afghanistan. By April, the U.S. Army is planning to send up to 1,000 more from Fort Benning, Ga. — the first soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigade, a unit made up of experienced officers and enlisted soldiers to advise Afghan troops closer to the front lines. The additional troops will bring the U.S. total to roughly 15,000. There were roughly 8,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan when President Trump took office. The U.S. military dropped more bombs in Afghanistan in 2017, than in 2012 when the U.S. military had nearly 100,000 troops on the ground, according to the Air Force. The spike in airstrikes began after Trump took office last year. As the war against ISIS winds down in Iraq and Syria, more Air Force jets and drones are being sent to Afghanistan. The new jets arrive at a time when both the Taliban and an ISIS-affiliate have stepped up their attacks on Afghanistan’s capital. The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack lasting more than 13 hours at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel by six gunmen, killing an estimated 18 civilians, mostly foreigners, according to local media reports. A significant number of the air strikes in Afghanistan last year targeted an ISIS-affiliate, responsible for other attacks inside Kabul at the end of the year, killing more than 100 civilians. Senior military leaders want to attack the Taliban using the same tactics used successfully against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — destroy major revenue sources to dry up funding which supports the organization. The top American commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., wants to go after the Taliban’s poppy crops used to make heroin, in much the same way the U.S. relentlessly attacked a major funding source for ISIS — oil. “This is allowed under the authorities that I was granted under the new U.S. strategy,” Nicholson told reporters late last year. “I could not do that previously.” “(Afghanistan) President (Ashraf) Ghani said, he believes we have turned the corner and I agree,” Nicholson added. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch said in December that U.S. airstrikes destroyed 25 narcotics-processing labs worth $80 million from the Taliban inventory in Helmand Province, not far from neighboring Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, where the new A-10s will be based. The A-10 dates back to the mid-70s, a jet made famous for its 30mm Gatling gun, which can fire 3,900 rounds a minute, the preferred air asset by U.S. ground troops for decades — to take out enemy forces at close range. The “Warthog,” as the jet is known, was designed to loiter above the battlefield at low altitudes protected by reinforced armor around the cockpit with a bulletproof-glass canopy. The newest A-10 was built in 1984, however. Because of its age, the jet has been a target for Air Force cuts in recent years as budgets tightened. But the jet maintains strong support on Capitol Hill, and has continued to be requested on the frontlines. A squadron of 12 A-10s deployed to Turkey in 2015 to strike ISIS. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December that she supported keeping the aging jets until the mid-2020s. “I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” she said.

As are we, here at The Daily Buzz!  Glad to see they’ll be joining the fight in Afghanistan!  Having spent some time personally in Afghanistan, I know just how much the troops on the ground love to see Warthogs softening the battlefield and chewing up the enemy.  Excellent!!   🙂

Afghan troops go AWOL in U.S.; IG says wastes taxpayer money, poses security threat

More than 150 Afghan troops brought to the U.S. for military training have gone AWOL since 2005, with 13 of them still unaccounted for and perhaps living here as illegal immigrants now, an inspector general said in a new report Friday.Part of the problem is that the U.S. never puts the trainees through an in-person interview and exempts them from registering as aliens when they arrive — both steps that other visitors would normally have to go through. In-person interviews and requiring the troops to register beforehand would help the government gauge whether someone is likely to go absent without leave, and would give immigration officers information about relatives in the U.S. as starting points when someone does go AWOL, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said. But the State Department rejected those suggestions. The audit said that while no acts of terrorism have yet been traced to the trainees, immigration agents say they’re worried because a number who go AWOL end up trying to claim asylum in the U.S., stymieing any national security investigation into their behavior. Beyond the potential danger, American taxpayers also miss out on the investment in the troops, the inspector general said. “It is clear that Afghan trainees go AWOL while in the United States at a far higher rate than do trainees from any other country, and we believe that the State Department (as well as other government agencies) should use all the tools at their disposal to reduce these occurrences and ensure that Afghan trainees return to Afghanistan and make use of the substantial U.S. taxpayer investment in training,” the audit concluded. The number of troops going AWOL surged in 2015 and 2016 as security back home deteriorated. Some Afghan troops currently being trained in the U.S. said the Taliban threatened their families back home once it became known they had a relative training here. Many of them said the training made them bigger targets when they returned.

All the more reason NOT to bring the here to train.  As someone who spent some time in Afghanistan personally, I fail to see the point in bringing large numbers of (mostly) enlisted troops to train here in America.  Probably 85+% can be trained at home in Afghanistan.  Those few exceptions who might need to be trained here are more senior officers and/or possibly pilots; those that require highly technical training, etc.  But, that’s a very small percentage of the Afghan military.  Beyond that, they should be trained by our folks IN Afghanistan.  Its far more cost effective AND posses less of a national security threat here.