Afghan Conflict Update 20180403

ANA Troops Training (photo NATO, May 2017)
ANA Troops Training (photo NATO, May 2017)

Afghan Conflict Update 20180403 – Taliban and NVGs, book review of Directorate S, ISKP remains a problem, Marines of Task Force South West, video TAAC-N EAP, DoD SEL on Afghanistan, Taliban strategy and RS soundbites, more ScanEagles for Afghanistan, CIVCAS, and more.

Taliban and their NVGs. It used to be the U.S. military could confidently say ‘We Own The Night‘. Well, not so much anymore. The Taliban have been picking up night vision goggles and using them against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The goggles are acquired through various means – corrupt ANDSF personnel who sell them directly to the Taliban or black marketeers, picking them up on the battlefield, buying them from commercial firms online, or provided by third parties. Read “The Taliban Keeps Stealing Night Vision Goggles From Afghan Troops – And The Pentagon Has No Idea What To Do”, by Paul Szoldra, Task & Purpose, April 2, 2018.

See another story on the same topic in “Taliban Forces Are Getting Their Hands on Night Vision Goggles and Lasers”Popular Mechanics, April 2, 2018. This article states that the Afghan National Army 215th Corps based in Helmand province failed to account for 49 sets of night vision goggles in 2016 – and they couldn’t explain the losses.

Book Review of Directorate S. Book author Steven Coll has a new book out about the Afghan conflict. He previously wrote Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden (2004). His new book, Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2018) brings us up to date on America’s longest running war (and its secrets). Read a review of his book by Joshua Sinai in “Guiding U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan”The Washington Times, April 2, 2018.

ISKP Remains a Problem. The Islamic State Khorasan Province continues to remain a force in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S. and Afghan SOF have given this ISIS affiliated group a lot of attention over the past two years but the group remains resilient. Read more in “The Trump Administration’s New Afghan Problem: The Islamic State”The Diplomat, April 3, 2018.

CIVCAS Event. News reports say that an Afghan Air Force (AAF) attack on a suspected Taliban gathering in the northern province of Kunduz on Monday caused numerous civilian casualties. Estimates of deaths range from 17 to 70 depending on the news source. (Reuters, Apr 2, 2018).

Marines of Task Force Southwest. The U.S. Marines have their second rotation of advisors currently conducting the ‘train, advise, and assist’ mission in Helmand Province. Task Force Southwest (TFSW) has attached advisors at the corps, brigade, and sometimes even at kandak (battalion) level – but they have not engaged in direct combat with the insurgents. The Marines have assisted with artillery, air support, ISR, and other enablers. Read “Marines not at the point of contact in Afghanistan”Marine Times, April 2, 2018.

More ScanEagles for Afghanistan. A Boeing subsidiary has received a $47 million award to provide additional Umanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to Afghanistan. This contract will provide for an additional eight systems – bringing the total number of ScanEagle systems in Afghanistan to 21. Each UAS has about ten air vehicles – meaning that as many as 170 UAVs could be fielded soon. Read “Afghanistan to receive additional ScanEagle UASs”Jane’s 360, March 29, 2018.

Taliban Strategy and RS HQs Soundbites. Sometimes you wonder if the folks speaking on behalf of Resolute Support headquarters have an understanding of how insurgencies work. A few days back Resolute Support spokesman Captain Tom Gresback (Navy captain, not an Army captain) claimed that Taliban operations in remote district centers “represent a significant lowering of ambition”. Well. I guess that is one way of putting it. Read “Can Resolute Support possibly still not understand Taliban strategy?”FDD’s Long War Journal, March 30, 2018.

The “New Approach” in Afghanistan. DoD and Resolute Support senior leaders are hailing the prospects of progress in the development of the ANDSF and say that the Afghan army and police will be more effective this fighting season. They credit this with a ‘new approach’ to how the U.S. and NATO are supporting the ANDSF. The more liberal use of air support and push of advisors down to kandak level is an important part of this new approach. Some observers have pointed out that this is what we were doing in the 2012-2014 time frame . . . but let’s put that aside for now. Read an article by Missy Ryan entitled “In Afghanistan, US Military Sprints to Prove It Can Reverse Insurgent Tide”Stars & Stripes, March 31, 2018.

DoD SEL on Afghanistan. Army Command Sergeant Major John Troxell tour Afghanistan with his boss – General Joe Dunford. The Senior Enlisted Advisor offers his comments on the current security situation and the advisory effort in “Senior Enlisted Leader Discusses Afghan Mission”Defense Media Activity, April 2, 2018.

Video TAAC-N EAP. When the Obama administration pulled out most of the troops in Afghanistan the number of advisors attached to the Afghan army and police diminished significantly. Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams (SFAATs) attached at kandak and brigade level completed their tours and they were not replaced. This left NATO and U.S. advisors at the corps, institutional, and ministry level – but with no advisor teams at the brigade and battalion level. In the past few years – to address the lack of advisors (and visibility) at the brigade and kandak level – Resolute Support Hqs has incorporated the use of the Expeditionary Advisory Package or EAP. Watch a short 2-min long video produced by Resolute Support about a Train, Advise, and Assist Command – North (TAAC-N) EAP that visits a 209th ANA Corps brigade hqs in Faryab province, Afghanistan. Check out other videos about the conflict in Afghanistan.

Photo Credit: Afghan troops conduct training. Photo by Resolute Support headquarters, May 2017.

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