New York Times Finally Admits US Lied About Ending Afghan War

I will go ahead and say it this time. I told you so. Back in December, the Obama Administration tried its best to create the fiction that the war in Afghanistan was coming to an end. I called bullshit then. Finally, four months later, the New York Times has come to the same realization as well:

Months after President Obama formally declared that the United States’ long war against the Taliban was over in Afghanistan, the American military is regularly conducting airstrikes against low-level insurgent forces and sending Special Operations troops directly into harm’s way under the guise of “training and advising.”

In justifying the continued presence of the American forces in Afghanistan, administration officials have insisted that the troops’ role is relegated to counterterrorism, defined as tracking down the remnants of Al Qaeda and other global terrorist groups, and training and advising the Afghan security forces who have assumed the bulk of the fight.

But the US military thinks nothing of gaming the system to bring action where they want it:

Rather than ending the American war in Afghanistan, the military is using its wide latitude to instead transform it into a continuing campaign of airstrikes — mostly drone missions — and Special Operations raids that have in practice stretched or broken the parameters publicly described by the White House.

/snip/

“They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes,” one of the officials said. “It’s not force protection when they are going on the offensive.”

And it’s not just field-level commanders making these decisions to circumvent the conditions laid out by the White House for fighting:

Commenting on the continuing military operations against the Taliban, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, vehemently denied accusations that he was putting troops into harm’s way just to enable more airstrikes.

He has insisted that it is within his purview to target Taliban insurgents who pose a threat not just to American or NATO troops but to any Afghan security forces. And his options on the ground were clear, he said in an interview, even if Washington’s public description of them was not.

“Washington is going to have to say what they say politically for many different audiences, and I have no issue with that,” General Campbell said. “I understand my authorities and what I have to do with Afghanistan’s forces and my forces. And if that doesn’t sell good for a media piece then, again, I can’t worry about it.”

Honey badger John Campbell don’t care about selling a media piece when there are brown people to be droned.

But even this expanded role for US troops over what they are supposed to be doing isn’t helping, as our “trained” Afghan troops continue to lose the war. Buried deep in the article is a leak of classified information that Afghan troop losses this year are running 54% higher than last year’s disastrous level of losses. This will not be sustainable for very long at all. It seems likely to me that sometime this summer (or at the very least no later than next summer), the Afghan military will simply melt away in the face of Taliban wins on multiple fronts.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

11 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    The NYTimes headline “Taliban Gains Pull U.S. Units Back Into Fight in Afghanistan” is incorrect. There is no evidence of mainline US combat units engaged in combat.
    .
    I don’t believe the US ever said the war was coming to an end. The statements that “forces would be narrowly focused on advising and training Afghan troops and hunting down the remnants of Al Qaeda” and “Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country.”
    .
    When it suits the warmongers, “combat” means regular troops in ground combat, with airstrikes being virtually risk-free and not really “combat.” (But the unopposed pilots do say that they are in combat.)
    .
    There has been only one US death reported in Afghanistan in the past four months, He was reportedly shot while on an “escort” mission. There are only about 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
    .
    The big lie has been that the fight has been against AQ whereas the principal US effort has been against the Taliban, enforcing the regime change of 2001 under the AUMF. Taliban continues to be supported by Pakistan, which is concerned about Indian inroads in Afghanistan. President Ghani is in India now.
    .
    AUMF: The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons,
    .
    The US will be managing the news from Afghanistan, promoting “success.” That is currently happening relating events in Kunduz, far north. We are not getting good news from Helmand, the principal focus of Obama’s surge to 100,000 plus troops with many casualties.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    If the Afghan military does melt away, what will be the role for the US military? Even more expanded?

    • Jim White says:

      .
      Good question on the US role. I’m not sure.
      .
      What I am sure of is that the finger-pointing and hissy fits over it will put those after the Iraqi military meltdown to shame. But especially if it doesn’t happen until next summer, it’s possible that even Congress won’t want to saddle whoever the incoming President will be with such a losing proposition as a new surge. If he just brings the rest of the troops home, though, Obama knows he will forever be known (by Republicans anyway) as the one who “lost” Afghanistan. And we all know how much O hates bad stuff being attached to his name. Maybe both Congress and Obama will decide to thread the needle with a mostly mercenary crew for the surge. Given the ratio of contractors to actual troops now, that isn’t as big a shift as the public might think.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding “melting away” more than 40,000 Afghan soldiers have dropped out of ANA in the last year, according to a SIGAR Report from Jan 2015:

    Attrition continues to be a major challenge for the ANSF. Between September 2013 and September 2014, more than 40,000 personnel were dropped from ANA rolls.

    .
    The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, testified yesterday at a House subcommittee:

    SIGAR’s recent audits highlight concerns that neither the United States nor its Afghan allies truly know how many Afghan soldiers and police are available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities.

    • Jim White says:

      .
      I haven’t had time to look at it yet, but a new SIGAR quarterly report just came out today. It sounds like they spend some time in this report digging into just how unreliable Afghan reports of troop numbers are, so look for accelerated melting numbers.

  4. GKJames says:

    Wasn’t aware of this, but Gen. Campbell confirms the target expansion to include “not just … American or NATO troops but [also] any Afghan security forces.” In other words, a perpetual war, given that the Afghan Army and the Taliban will be at this for a good long while, unless the international community (Washington is certainly not going to initiate it) does something sensible like facilitate negotiations of a political settlement. (Of course, this is the view of a traitorous soul who still doesn’t understand why/how the Taliban, specifically, became the enemy.)

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Future use of US military is a political question, and the upcoming elections may influence US strategy back toward more involvement in ground combat. What good is the world’s finest military if it’s not used?
    .
    There are few limits to American Exceptionalism and its enforcement of US “world leadership.” There is no substitute for victory, the saying goes. The facts that “victory” has been totally elusive and the military efforts have been counter-productive, don’t enter their little heads.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    This just in–
    ‘Triple Nickel’ arrives at BAF

    BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Airmen assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron, known as the “Triple Nickel,” from Aviano Air Base, Italy, arrived here April 27 in support of operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support.
    .
    During their six-month tenure at BAF[Bagram Air Field, Afghan.], members of the Triple Nickel will assume the responsibility of providing over-watch and close-air-support for ground units in Afghanistan…
    .
    The mission of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is to provide decisive combat air power in support of efforts to ensure a sovereign and stable Afghanistan that isn’t a safe haven for international terrorists.

    The “safe haven” reason for war lives on and never dies.

  7. Peterr says:

    “I will go ahead and say it this time. I told you so. “
    .
    You call yourself “Marcy,” but I have it on good authority that your real name is “Cassandra.”

  8. Don Bacon says:

    Oh come on “Jim” we know it’s simply another persona of the ubiquitous Marcy, who also used to do that bmaz thing on Sundays. ;-)

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