Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Recommends ‘Cheaper, Lighter’ Afghanistan Approach

AFP

Breitbart, by Kristina Wong, June 12, 2017:

Blackwater founder and former Navy SEAL Erik Prince is recommending, as the Trump administration debates its Afghanistan War approach, that the U.S. military go back to its light footprint approach in Afghanistan.

Prince told the “Breitbart News Sunday” radio program that the approach – which would see CIA, special operators, and contractors working with Afghan forces to target terrorists – would be more effective and save the U.S. billions of dollars annually.

“I say go back to the model that worked, for a couple hundred years in the region, by the East India company, which used professional Western soldiers who were contracted and lived with trained with and when necessary fought with their local counterparts,” he said.

Prince said the most effective time the U.S. had in Afghanistan against terrorism was the first 12 months after the September 2001 attack, where CIA, special operators, and contractors worked with local Afghan forces with air support.

“That really put the Taliban and al Qaeda on the back heels,” he said. “The more we’ve gone into a conventional approach in Afghanistan, the more we are losing.”

Prince, who has advised the Trump campaign, argued that the light footprint approach was more effective.

“[It] literally puts them side by side, living in the same base. Believe me – if you’re a trainer, and your life depends on the success of the unit, you are going to make sure the men are paid, fed, equipped,” he said.

Prince also argued that the light footprint approach would also be “much cheaper, more sustainable” – about 10 percent of the current costs.

“We’re spending, this year as a country, $45 billion there… That’s a staggering amount of money, and this is a time when [the Department of Defense] needs more money to reset equip and airplanes and boats and tanks and everything else,” he said.

Prince argued that today’s approach is not working.

There are currently about 8,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan conducting a train-and-advise mission as well as a counterterrorism mission. After former President Obama declared the combat mission over in December 2014, the Taliban have made a comeback, and now control about a third of the country.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has also established a nascent presence on the ground there.

“The way the U.S. Army does it now, is the Americans live on one base, the Afghans live on another base, they act have to fly over to the other base, maybe see them once or twice a week, they don’t really go on missions with them anymore and it really lives the indigenous units hanging,” he said.

“So they go out on patrol, they can’t get the fires support, they can’t get resupply, they can’t [be medically evacuated], they miss the basic soldiering that would let them be successful,” he said.

He said many of the 300,000-plus Afghan forces supported by the U.S. are “ghosts” – with corrupt officials pocketing the money instead. Plus, he said supporting that many forces is beyond Afghanistan’s capability.

The approach Prince recommended tracks with one that some of Trump’s advisers are advocating for – a focus on the counterterrorism mission versus nation building, with special operators training Afghan forces.

Another approach under consideration, backed by National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is surging an additional 3,000 U.S. troops, and hitting the Taliban harder to force it back to the negotiating table.

Prince also recommended putting a U.S. leader in charge of Afghanistan that would extend past the limited tours that U.S. military commanders normally have there, and relaxing rules of engagement.

“We’ve had 17 different commanders in a 15-year period. No great football team or sports teams changes its coaches every year, yet we’ve done that more than every year and with predictable results,” he said.

He also recommended pushing Afghans to sustain is own economy, including passing a mining law necessary to take advantage of the $1 trillion in minerals the country is estimated to have.

Prince said that, currently, Afghanistan’s economy is 90 percent dependent on donor aid, and its security budget totally dependent on the U.S.

“There is gold, copper and iron ore, and a bunch of rare earth elements, lithium — all very high value stuff and oil and gas as well,” he said. “But all the experts at the State Department have yet to get the Afghans to pass a mining law.”

Meanwhile, he said the Taliban is raking in money from opium, hashish, gold, lapis, marble, and pistachios.

“The Taliban has dominated each of those spaces, each of those parts of the economy and that’s what they use to fund their entire insurgency and that’s why they’re able to pay well, and to grow and to flourish, and it’s really, really frustrating.”

The U.S. first invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, after the Taliban allowed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan the September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York that killed 2,996 people and wounded more than 6,000 others.

The CIA and special operators led the successful invasion, toppling the Taliban from power and establishing a presence there from which to go after al Qaeda. Many fled into Pakistan, including bin Laden, who was later killed there in 2011.

But since then, the U.S. and NATO countries have had a presence of more than a hundred thousand troops there. Former President Barack Obama in 2009 ordered a troop surge of around 30,000 into the country, simultaneously announcing they would begin to withdraw in 18 months – a timeline that angered U.S. military commanders who felt it was a signal to the Taliban to wait coalition forces out.

After U.S. troops began withdrawing and Obama declared the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014, the Taliban has made a comeback and now control at least a third of the territory and about as much of the population.

Today, Prince said, there are about 20 different terrorist groups there.

“The Taliban continues to be aligned 100 percent to al Qaeda and its where number terrorist attacks — the most notable one being the 9/11 attacks, emanated from Afghanistan,” he said.

“We have to accept that Afghanistan is a very rough place. It’s resident to 20 different terrorist org and there’s a lot of bad things that emanate from there so getting to a manageable state.”

Prince noted that the Taliban has retaken Sangin, a district in southern Afghanistan that U.S. troops fought hard to pacify, and recently held a victory parade out in the open.

“They had a victory parade in broad daylight with hundreds of Taliban and dozens of vehicles. They did it in broad daylight an they were unafraid of someone attacking them,” he said. “The terrorists have to fear waking up the next morning.”

Bomb blast rocks Kabul during rush hour, killing dozens of civilians

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 31, 2017:

A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated near diplomatic facilities in the Afghan capital during rush hour this morning. Preliminary casualty reports say that at least 80 people were killed in the blast and dozens more wounded. A photo of the aftermath of the bombing (seen above) was posted on Twitter by Afghanistan’s Ariana News.

The bomb exploded at 8:22 am local time “in Kabul near Zambaq Square outside the Green Zone, which houses diplomatic and government facilities,” according to NATO’s Resolute Support. Afghan security forces “prevented the VBIED from gaining entry to the Green Zone,” but dozens of nearby civilians perished.

The Taliban has already denied any involvement via a statement attributed to Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman. It is likely that the Islamic State, which has carried out large-scale operations in Kabul this year, will claim responsibility.

Even though the Taliban-led insurgency is responsible for many civilian casualties, the organization is concerned with how its violence is perceived by the Afghan population. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists have no such concern.

Resolute Support quickly pointed out that the “attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people.” It “also highlights the hypocrisy of the enemy who claim that they only target Afghan Security Forces and Foreign forces, yet continue to cause death and suffering amongst innocent Afghans.”

Mujahid’s statement reads like a response to Resolute Support. “This explosion has nothing to do with the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate,” the statement reads. “Our Mujahideen are not involved in this incident and neither are the Mujahideen allowed to carry out such…large explosions at ill-defined areas.” The Taliban’s spokesman says the group “condemns every explosion and attack carried out against civilians, or in which civilians are harmed and [there is] no legitimate target.”

“Our countrymen must rest assured that the Kabul attack is not the work of Mujahideen,” Mujahid says.

The German government confirmed that the bombing was “carried out in the immediate vicinity” of its embassy. “It hit civilians and it hit those who are in Afghanistan to work with the people there on a better future for the country,” Germany’s minister of foreign affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, said in a statement. “It is particularly despicable that these people were targeted.” Gabriel said that German Embassy staff members were injured, but all of them “are now safe.” An Afghan security officer who was guarding the grounds wasn’t so lucky, as he was killed in the explosion.

BBC News reported that Mohammed Nazir, an Afghan driver who worked with the service’s journalists, was killed. Afghanistan’s ToloNews has also reported at least one death as a result of the bombing.

The Islamic State has carried out several high-profile attacks in Kabul this year.

On Feb. 7, the group launched a suicide bombing outside of the supreme court, killing at least 20 people.

Then, on Mar. 8, an Islamic State suicide team assaulted the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul. According to the UN, the hospital is “the largest military medical facility in Afghanistan” and “treats sick and wounded members of the armed forces and their family members.” The jihadists dressed like hospital personnel in order to confuse their victims. There are conflicting reports with respect to the total number of casualties, but dozens were killed or wounded.

On May 3, another suicide bomber detonated his VBIED at an Afghan security checkpoint near the US Embassy in Kabul. The Islamic State’s jihadist was targeting a NATO convoy, but at least eight civilians were killed. Three coalition service members were also wounded, according to Resolute Support.

The US has been leading a counterterrorism operation against the Islamic State’s Wilyah Khorasan (or Khorasan province) in eastern Afghanistan. In April, three American service members were killed during raids in Nangarhar, which has been Wilayah Khorasan’s stronghold. The so-called caliphate’s men have lost ground in Nangarhar, but are still able to execute high-profile operations in Kabul and elsewhere. [For more on the US-led effort against the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: 2 American service members killed fighting Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Also see:

Pentagon Teeters On The Edge Of Full-Scale War In Afghanistan

US Army/Flickr

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjetti, May 9, 017:

President Donald Trump’s most senior advisers will present him with a plan to escalate the U.S. military’s mission in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports.

This plan includes ramping up the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan along with changing the U.S. military’s rules of engagement while supporting the Afghan National Security Forces. The goal of the plan is to curb the Taliban’s battlefield gains and push them into entering a peace process with the Afghan government.

Both U.S. military commanders in charge of the war have told Congress the U.S. is in a stalemate with the Taliban and needs a few thousand more troops to tip the balance.

Trump will reportedly make the final call on the plan before a May 25 meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels. Trump campaigned on a promise to defeat the Islamic State, which has a nascent presence in Afghanistan. The terrorist group is just one of a myriad problems for the U.S. in Afghanistan.

The Taliban movement controls nearly one-third of the Afghan population and more territory than at any time since 2001, a new United Nations report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal reveals. The plan essentially doubles down on supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban. The Afghan forces, however, are beset by a host of problems, which nearly $75 billion in U.S. aid has been unable to fix so far.

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted April 30 that Afghan forces face “many problems: unsustainable casualties, temporary losses of provincial and district centers, weakness in logistics and other functions, illiteracy in the ranks, often corrupt or ineffective leadership, and over-reliance on highly trained special forces for routine missions.”

The report also found the Afghan forces continue to suffer “shockingly” high casualties, noting 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.

The Taliban announced its spring fighting season April 28, signaling its annual intent to ramp up operations across the country. The announcement said the group would focus on “foreign forces, their military and intelligence infrastructure.”

Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter

***

PENTAGON: TERRORISTS THREATENING TO CONTROL 40% OF AFGHANISTAN

So why is Congress OK’ing 2,500 more US visas for Afghan immigrants?

Front Page Magazine, by Paul Sperry, May 4, 2017:

A just-released Pentagon report suggests Afghanistan is spiraling toward civil war with the number of terrorist attacks, casualties and displacements of Afghans hitting record highs, thanks in no small part to former President Obama’s precipitous withdrawal of US combat troops starting in 2014.

As the Afghan government risks losing roughly 40 percent of the country to terrorists and insurgents, Congress proposes issuing 2,500 more visas to Afghan nationals to allow them to immigrate to America, a move that raises security concerns. The Pentagon says ISIS has established beachheads in several Afghan districts, along with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and these and other terrorist groups could use the visa program to infiltrate the US.

The new report from the Defense Department’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction paints a picture of chaos and instability throughout the country. Among the shocking findings:

* The number of terrorist attacks and other security incidents throughout 2016 and continuing into the first quarter of 2017 reached their highest level on record.

* Casualties suffered by Afghan security forces “in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents continue to be shockingly high,” with 807 killed and 1,328 wounded in just the first six weeks of this year.

* Conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose to 11,418 in 2016 – the highest on record.

* A whopping 660,639 people in Afghanistan fled their homes due to conflict in 2016 – a 40 percent jump over 2015 and the highest number of displacements on record.

* The Afghan government now controls barely 60 percent of the country’s 407 districts, while the Taliban and other insurgents control or threaten to control the rest.

“Preventing insurgents from increasing their control or influence of districts continues to be a challenge” for the Afghan government, the report warned, noting that Kabul’s control of the country has dropped from 72 percent in November 2015 to just under 60 percent today.

“Afghanistan remains in the grip of a deadly war,” inspector general John Sopko said, and one that has seen insurgents gaining more and more territory over the past 18 months.

The 2,500 special visas for Afghan refugees, championed by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, were stuffed into the compromise spending bill and are up for consideration on the Hill this week.

US visas issued annually to Afghans nearly doubled under the Obama administration, soaring from 2,454 in 2008 to 4,156 in 2015, the latest year for which data are kept.

Experts say the number of Afghan refugees recently resettled in the US is on the rise.

“I’ve noticed an uptick,” Refugee Resettlement Watch director Ann G. Corcoran said. “The number is increasing.”

Few in Washington are raising alarms about this largely uncontrolled influx of new Afghan immigrants, but the security risk compounds the risk posed by Syrian refugees.

Though their numbers are relatively small next to the projected flood of Syrians, experts fear the Afghan immigrants could include jihadists who decide to lash out at their generous Western host — as they have in Germany, which is deporting 12,000 Afghan refugees after some carried out terrorist attacks there.

Several recent Afghan immigrants have already been busted for terrorism in America, including: Afghan refugee Hayatulla Dawari, who got as far as naturalization before authorities learned of his involvement with an Afghan terror group and convicted him in 2014; and Afghan refugee Sohiel Omar Kabir, who was sentenced in 2015 to 25 years in federal prison for providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans.

Afghan immigration, moreover, factors into recent “homegrown” terrorism, including the Orlando, Fla., and Chelsea, N.Y., attacks.

Assurances that Afghan refugees will be vetted for security risks and monitored while in America are not comforting. The Pentagon can’t even keep track of the Afghans it brings here for military training exercises designed to help them go back and defend their own country.

Alarmingly, at least 45 Afghan soldiers have disappeared in the US over the past two years while training at military installations. Many of these AWOL immigrants, who also came here on special visas, have extensive training in weapons and explosives.

Further raising security alarms, the Taliban has infiltrated the Afghan security forces supplying these special immigrants. The Pentagon inspector general says the penetration is so deep that the Taliban are obtaining much of their weapons and ammunition, as well as gasoline, from US-supplied Afghan soldiers.

“Taliban commanders give instructions to their forces to buy weapons, ammunition and fuel from the Afghan army and police,” according to the Pentagon report.

Afghanistan is conspicuously absent from the list of seven terror-prone countries in President Trump’s indefinite immigration ban, even though al-Qaeda has reopened terrorist training camps there and ISIS is operating in several districts.

The Pentagon reveals that no fewer than 20 terrorist groups, including ISIS, are now operating in Afghanistan, mostly along the Pakistan border.

“This is the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world,” it says.

The department also notes that “the Taliban and other insurgents have gained territory over the past two years,” as Obama hastily withdrew US troops, and now threaten to control more than 40 percent of the country.

Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow and author of the bestsellers “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.” Follow him on Twitter: @paulsperry_

Do Not Be Fooled by These “Moderates” in Florida

Gatestone Institute, by Joe Kaufman, May 2, 2017:

  • Since its creation, the Deobandi movement has produced a number of militant offshoots, most notably the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and spread its tentacles around the world, including in the United States. Shafayat Mohamed returned from India and set up one such tentacle in Florida.
  • As Thomas Friedman wrote, “We talked to the boys. All of them thought America was evil and that Osama bin Laden was a hero.”
  • Much like its sister madrasa in Pakistan, the Darul Uloom Institute and its imam, Shafayat Mohamed, follow in the line of the most extreme elements of the Deobandi movement. The only difference is that one is more than 7,000 miles away from American shores, and the other is right in our backyard.

The Darul Uloom Institute — who? — in Pembroke Pines, Florida will hold its annual fundraising dinner and awards ceremony on May 6. If it is anything like last year’s gala, which saw honors go to a prominent local politician, a rabbi, and a pastor, you will hear some “moderate” messaging.

Do not, however, let this radical Islamic center’s attempt to ingratiate itself into mainstream American society fool you. Its history is mired in violence and hate.

The Darul Uloom Institute was founded by its imam, Shafayat Mohamed, in October 1994. Originally from Trinidad, Mohamed left for India in 1975, where he was educated at Darul Uloom Deoband, the school where the hardline Sunni Deobandi movement was established in May 1866. In a show of favor to his student, Darul Uloom Deoband selected Mohamed to lead a group of Americans in a 1979 tour of its facilities.

Since its creation, the Deobandi movement has produced a number of militant offshoots, most notably the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and spread its tentacles around the world, including in the United States. Mohamed returned from India and set up one such tentacle in Florida.

Shortly after its founding, Mohamed’s institute became affiliated with “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, a soon-to-be al-Qaeda operative who plotted to set off a radiological bomb in the U.S. Padilla, then a recent convert to Islam, was a student of Mohamed’s and attended the institute from 1995 through 1997. The following year, Padilla abandoned his wife and home in Florida for Egypt and then Pakistan, on his way to becoming a full-blown terrorist.

Mohamed has his own radical history. He has been thrown off a number of Broward County boards due to his extreme rhetoric against homosexuals. In February 2005, he published an article, “Tsunami: Wrath of God,” on the Darul Uloom website; he claims in it that homosexuality caused the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Mohamed’s article does not target just gays. It also describes Jews and Christians — whom he calls “People of the Book” — as “perverted transgressors.”

The profile picture on Mohamed’s Facebook page shows him shaking hands with now-deceased Muslim leader Ahmed Deedat, with whom he said he “had a good relationship.” The photo with Deedat was taken in Durban, South Africa, at what was then named the Bin Laden Centre. Deedat, who according to the New York Times was “a vocal anti-Semite and ardent backer of Osama bin Laden,” personally received millions of dollars from Bin Laden and Bin Laden’s family for the center.

Shafayat Mohamed. (Image source: Al-Hikmat TV video screenshot)

Other terrorists linked to the institute include prayer leader and the late al-Qaeda operative Adnan el-Shukrijumah. In July 2010, el-Shukrijumah was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for his role in the 2009 plot to blow up New York City’s subway system. Arabic teacher Imran Mandhai, along with fellow mosque attendees Hakki Aksoy and Shueyb Mossa Jokhan, hatched an operation at Darul Uloom to blow up power stations, Jewish businesses, and a National Guard armory. According to Mohamed himself, at least one of the 9/11 hijackers may have spent time at his center.

The Darul Uloom Institute runs a media arm named Al-Hikmat. In May 2016, Al-Hikmat published a video of a speech made by Izhar Khan, the imam of the mosque and “outreach center” Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen (MJAM), who in May 2011 was arrested and spent 20 months in a federal detention center in Miami on charges of working “to collect and deliver money for the Pakistani Taliban.”

Thomas Friedman’s book, Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism, discusses a visit he and a Pakistani journalist made to Darul Uloom Haqqania, a religious seminary he described as “the biggest madrasa, or Islamic boys’ school, in Pakistan.” The school has also been referred to elsewhere as the “University of Jihad.” As Friedman wrote, “We talked to the boys. All of them thought America was evil and that Osama bin Laden was a hero.”

Much like its sister madrasa in Pakistan, the Darul Uloom Institute and its imam, Shafayat Mohamed, follow in the line of the most extreme elements of the Deobandi movement. The only difference is that one is more than 7,000 miles away from American shores, and the other is right in our backyard.

No award ceremony can alter this reality. But donations can and do perpetuate it.

Joe Kaufman is a contributor to Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

House Panel Expert: U.S. ‘Losing in Afghanistan’ as Al-Qaeda Grows Stronger

Reuters

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, April 27, 2017:

WASHINGTON D.C. — Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is growing stronger with the resurgence of the Taliban in recent years and “remains a direct threat” to America more than a decade and a half after the United States began targeting both terrorist groups in response to 9/11, an expert tells House lawmakers.

In October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan, and the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda has been raging since.

President Donald Trump inherited chaos and overall deteriorating security conditions in the war-devastated country.

Under former President Barack Obama’s watch, the Taliban seized more territory in Afghanistan than during any time since the U.S. military removed the jihadist group from power in 2001 and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) gained a foothold in the country.

The U.S. military “downplayed this problem of the Taliban” during Obama’s tenure, Bill Roggio, an expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and editor of the Long War Journal, told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism.

“If that’s the attitude of the U.S. military towards the Taliban inside Afghanistan, we will continue to lose this war,” he later added. “We need to reassess Afghanistan… our policy in Afghanistan is a mess frankly, and the Trump administration needs to decide what to do and how to do it quickly.”

“The Taliban—al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag,” also said Roggio in his written testimony.

Last Friday, the Taliban carried out its deadliest-ever attack on a major military base in northern Balkh province that left as many as 250 soldiers dead.

Although the U.S. military argues the Afghan conflict is at a “stalemate,” Roggio told the House panel that America is losing the war.

“We are losing in Afghanistan… and The Taliban controls or contests at least half of Afghanistan,” Roggio told lawmakers, adding in his written testimony:

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger. Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS [al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent], and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

Roggio testified alongside Dr. Seth Jones from the RAND Corporation and Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown from the Brookings Institution.

Echoing the U.S. military, the experts told lawmakers that Russia and Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran are providing military assistance to the Taliban, adding that neighboring Pakistan provides sanctuary to the terrorist group as well as its al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network allies.

According to the Pentagon, the Haqqani Network poses the “primary threat” to the American military in Afghanistan.

The experts noted that a U.S. military withdrawal from the war-devastated country would spell trouble for America’s national security.

The United States has already invested nearly $120 billion in nation-building efforts in the country.

Despite the threat posed by the Afghan Taliban, the group is not officially listed as a terrorist group by the United States like its ally al-Qaeda and its rival ISIS.

Roggio pointed out that although ISIS’s presence in Afghanistan is a problem, the Taliban remains a bigger threat.

ISIS is considered an enemy by both the al-Qaeda and the Taliban, considered the strongest group in the country.

“The reason the Taliban matters is the Taliban and al-Qaeda, they remain tied at the hip,” testified Roggio. “The Taliban refuse to surrender al-Qaeda members — Osama Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. They continued to fight side by side. Al-Qaeda serves as a force multiplier.”

“The Islamic State is on the fringe. It’s a small problem in Afghanistan compared to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Pakistani jihadist groups that operate there (in ISIS’ Afghan stronghold Nangarhar province),” he added. They operate primarily in four districts in Nangarhar province and have a minimal presence in the north, and it certainly is a problem.

This week, ISIS in Nangarhar killed two U.S. troops and wounded another, the Pentagon revealed.

“Our efforts seemed to be focused on the Islamic State at this point in time while largely ignoring what the Taliban is doing throughout the country and that is directly challenging the Afghan military. They’re going toe to toe; They’re raiding their bases; They’re taking control of territory,” said Roggio.

***

Also see:

To Break the Stalemate in Afghanistan, America Must Break Pakistan’s Pathologies

National Interest, by Robert Cassidy, April 6, 2017: (h/t Anthony Shaffer)

“Twenty U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan sub-region; seven of the 20 organizations are in Pakistan. So long as these groups maintain safe haven inside of Pakistan they will threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan. Of particular concern to us is the Haqqani Network (HQN) which poses the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.”  General Joseph Votel, Posture Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 2017.

“The Taliban and the Haqqani network are the greatest threats to security in Afghanistan. Their senior leaders remain insulated from pressure and enjoy freedom of action within Pakistan safe havens.  As long as they enjoy external enablement, they have no incentive to reconcile.  The primary factor that will enable our success is the elimination of external sanctuary and support to the insurgents.”  General John Nicholson, Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan, February 2017.

After 15-plus years, the war in Afghanistan remains a strategic stalemate because defeating an enemy requires taking away its capacity and will.  The Coalition and Afghan forces have hit the enemy’s capacity year after year but the Taliban’s will—their senior leaders, support, resources, rest, regeneration, and arms—continue to benefit from sanctuary and support from Pakistan’s security establishment.  In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in February of this year, the theater commander, General John Nicholson, stated that he believed the war in Afghanistan was a stalemate.  It has been a strategic stalemate for at least the last ten years and arguably for the last 15 years.  As early as 2003 the then-top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General John Vines, stated publicly that the Taliban were benefiting from Pakistan’s sanctuaries to regroup.  So despite suffering many losses in leaders and capacity inside Afghanistan year after year, the Taliban have not quit, and are resilient in regenerative capacity.  Tactical and operational momentum have ebbed and flowed throughout the war.  The Coalition and its Afghan partners have made some errors, but they have improved and adapted during the course of the war.  The Afghan security forces have grown in quantity and improved in quality, and have led the fight for several years.  During the peak numbers of exogenous forces for the war in 2010-2011, the Coalition forces, along with their Afghan partners, achieved marked tactical gains and operational momentum.  To be sure, Coalition and Afghan forces have undertaken many counterterrorism and counterinsurgency actions that have punished, disrupted, and displaced the Taliban and the Haqqani leadership and infrastructure, year after year.

Yet these gains at the tactical and operational levels have been short-lived and have generally lacked meaning in the face of the most conspicuous impediment to strategic success: Pakistan’s sanctuary and support for the enemy.  Killing, capturing, disrupting, and displacing insurgent and terrorist enemies, fighting season after fighting season, absent genuine strategic momentum, have made this a perpetual war.  It is beginning to seem like a Groundhog-Day war where fulfilling the purpose remains elusive.  In theory, the purpose of war is to serve policy; in practice, if war is not linked to strategic rationale and momentum, the nature of war is to serve itself.  Fighting year after year within the context of a strategic stalemate is essentially violence and war serving themselves and not policy.

[…]

Conclusion

Pakistani strategic culture stems from pathological geopolitics infused with a Salafi-Deobandi jihadist ideology, suffused by paranoia and neurosis.  The principal but not exclusive reason that Afghanistan has seen discernibly improved quality and quantity in its forces as well as fighting capacity, yet continues to face a strategic stalemate, is the Pakistani security elites’ malign strategic calculus.  The Taliban would have been a marginal nuisance, without the full support that Pakistan’s security establishment bestowed to pursue Pakistan’s imaginary notion of strategic depth on its western flank by asserting control over Afghanistan through its zealous proxies.

Pakistan has nurtured and relied on a host of Islamist insurgents and terrorists.  It is home to the world’s highest concentration of terrorist groups.  Of the 98 U.S.-designated terrorist groups around the world, 20 operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The ISI has maintained links with Al Qaeda, its longtime Taliban allies, and a host of other extremist groups inside Pakistan. It is possible for Pakistan to become a genuine U.S. strategic partner only if it ceases its support of proxy terrorists and insurgents.  The fact that America has paid Pakistan in excess of $33 billion for Pakistan’s malice and treachery since 9/11 is repugnant and ridiculous.

The U.S and the Coalition must desist in the illusion that Pakistan, one of the foremost ideological and physical breeders of Islamist terrorists, is an ally or a friend.  It is neither.  Pretending that Pakistan is an ally in the war against Islamist militants, one that would act in ways to help defeat Islamist networks in the border tribal areas, has made the West complicit in and partly responsible for Pakistan’s machinations.

Since this war began, the U.S. has on a number of occasions stipulated that Pakistan must curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against the U.S. and its allies; demonstrate a sustained commitment to, and make significant efforts towards, combating terrorist groups; cease support, including support by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, for extremist and terrorist groups; and dismantle terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country.  Clearly, Pakistan has not complied with these stipulations and continues to do the converse, serving as the most significant supporter and employer of Islamist insurgents and terrorists.

The United States and its Coalition allies have not crafted a Pakistan strategy that uses their substantial resources to modify Pakistan’s strategic calculus.  An effective Pakistan strategy must use the full weight of the U.S. and other regional actors to compel Pakistan to alter its strategic conduct and to stop supporting terrorists.

Investing in and increasing the Afghan Special Security Forces and the Afghan Air Force to create overmatching offensive capacity, to then build tactical and operational momentum, will help assert influence over key population areas and take away Taliban capacity, but this will be ephemeral if not coupled with strategic momentum.  To break the strategic stalemate, the Coalition should cast off its illusions about Pakistan.  For far too long, Pakistan has been viewed and treated as an important non-NATO ally in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, but it is essentially an abysmal ally, a veritable foe, because it acts in ways inimical to Coalition troops, our and the aims of the Afghan state.  After 15-plus years of Pakistan’s perfidy, it is essential to go heavy on sticks and light on carrots to break Pakistan of its pathologies and their pernicious effects in Afghanistan.  Sticks and fear will work where carrots, cash, and cajoling have not.  The U.S. and the Coalition must consider tapping into the Pakistan establishment’s fear, honor, and interests.  U.S. fears that the Pakistani state will collapse, implode or fracture are overstated.  Pakistan is hard and resilient in deep and broad ways.

The following stipulations, steps, and ultimatums, in order of escalation, are the way to break Pakistan of its pathologies and break the stalemate: 1) stop paying for malice; 2) end major non-NATO ally status; 3) state intention to make the line of control in Kashmir permanent; 4) shut down ground lines of communications via Pakistan; 5) declare Pakistan the state sponsor of terrorism that it is; 6) issue one last ultimatum to Pakistan to end sanctuary for insurgents and not impede success; 7) invite the Indian Armed Forces into Afghanistan for security operations in the Pashtun eastern and southern regions; and 8) as a last resort, reciprocate Pakistan’s malice and perfidy.  Uncontested sanctuary contributed to the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, and it continues be the single biggest obstacle to defeating the Taliban and the most significant cause of the stalemate.

It is difficult, if not impossible to win in counterinsurgency when the insurgents benefit from what is essentially unimpeded sanctuary.  What’s more, if the Taliban were to revive an Islamist emirate in Afghanistan, there is every reason to forecast a future with more attacks against the West, planned and orchestrated with increasing scope and intensity from Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Colonel Robert Cassidy, Ph.D., U.S. Army, is the author of three books and a host of articles about irregular warfare and Afghanistan.  He has served in Afghanistan four times.  The works of practitioners-scholars Fair, Gregory, Husain Haqqani, Zalmay Khalilzad, Ahmed Rashid, Rubin, and the Schaffers informed this article.  These views are from the author’s studies and service in the region and do not reflect the views of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Naval War College, or the U.S. Department of Defense.