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U.S. Foreign Policy And Wars

Esper Says Taliban Deal Is Promising but Not Without Risk

MUNICH — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that a truce agreement between the United States and the Taliban that could lead to the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is not without risk but “looks very promising.”

Ahead of a formal announcement of the seven-day “reduction in violence” deal, Esper said it was time to give peace a chance in Afghanistan through a political negotiation. He spoke a day after a senior U.S. official said the deal had been concluded and would take effect very soon.

Expectations are that agreement will be formally announced on Sunday and that the reduction in violence will begin on Monday, according to people familiar with the plan.

“So we have on the table right now a reduction in violence proposal that was negotiated between our ambassador and the Taliban,” Esper told an audience at the Munich Security Confererence. “It looks very promising.”

“It’s my view as well that we have to give peace a chance, that the best if not the only way forward in Afghanistan is through a political agreement and that means taking some risk,” he said. “That means enabling our diplomats and that means working together with our partners and allies on the ground to affect such a thing.”

 

Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on Friday in Munich with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has been skeptical of the scheme, which, if successful, would see an end to attacks for seven days and then the signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal. All-Afghan peace talks would then begin within 10 days as part of the plan, which envisions the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces over 18 months.

Ghani has not yet spoken publicly about the agreement which was finalized last week by U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar. Esper, however, said Ghani was supportive of the deal and had pledged to do his best to support it.

“I think he is fully on board,” Esper said of Ghani. “He wants to lead his part of the process, which if we get to that would be a a peace deal that would involve very soon afterward an inter-Afghan negotiation. He wants to be clearly a full partner in that and wants to lead on that and make sure that all Afghans come together.”

Ghani has bickered with his partner in the current Unity Government, Abdullah Abdullah, over who will represent Kabul at the negotiating table. Ghani has insisted he lead the talks, while his political opponents and other prominent Afghans have called for more inclusive representation.

Separately on Saturday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the security conference that he also supported the plan but stressed that the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan would continue in the short- and medium-term.

“We are not leaving Afghanistan but we are prepared to adjust our force level if the Taliban demonstrates the will and the capability to reduce violence and make real compromises that could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans for sustainable peace,” he said.

U.S. officials have not publicly spelled out their timetable for an initial drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but the expectation is that a reduction from the current total of about 12,000 to approximately 8,600 will begin after the signing of a U.S.-Taliban deal. That initial reduction is likely to stretch out over a period of weeks or months.

The Taliban official said the withdrawal of foreign troops would start gradually and be carried out over 18 months.

More Than 100 Troops Have Brain Injuries From Iran Missile Strike, Pentagon Says

The number of troops injured has steadily increased since the Jan. 8 attack.

By

 

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

More than 100 American service members have traumatic brain injuries from Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq in January, the Defense Department said, a number that was more than 50 percent higher than previously disclosed.

Of the 109 troops who have been diagnosed with brain injuries, 76 had returned to duty, officials said Monday.

“We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty,” said Alyssa Farah, the Pentagon press secretary.

The latest tally, which has steadily grown since the Jan. 8 strike, drew a sharp contrast with the assertion by the Trump administration in the hours after the attack that no Americans were hurt. The number also underscored the unseen effects of traumatic brain injuries, which sometimes do not manifest symptoms for days or weeks but can have long-term physical or mental effects.

And as the injury toll has mounted, veterans groups and others have levied criticism at the White House, in part because, in January, President Trump dismissed the injuries as “not very serious.”

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference Jan. 22 in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”

At least a dozen missiles were fired during the attack, which was a retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. The Trump administration at first said there were no injuries, but a week later said several service members were evaluated for possible concussions.

Then, days after Mr. Trump’s statements in Davos, the Defense Department said that 34 people had suffered brain injuries. The number was later increased to 50 and then to 64, with military officials saying that the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries could take weeks to appear.

The repeated revisions have drawn outrage from some veterans and senators.

“The number just keeps going up,” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said on Twitter on Monday. “It’s time for Congress to demand a full investigation. The public and our military families deserve the truth.”

Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican strategist, said on Twitter on Monday that a traumatic brain injury “can have debilitating lifelong effects.”

“We shouldn’t hide our veterans’ injuries just to pretend like we’re invincible,” he said.

Traumatic brain injuries can result from the powerful changes in atmospheric pressure that accompany an explosion like that from a missile warhead. Only in the last several years has the Pentagon made a considerable effort to understand the injuries.

Mr. Trump’s statements appeared to echo sentiments common in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where troops rattled by explosions were visibly uninjured and ushered back to duty, only to have long-term effects from the blasts manifest weeks and months later.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said at a news conference in January that the Pentagon took those types of injuries “very seriously.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions on Monday afternoon.

 

Trump Administration Broadens Use of Landmines

President Donald J. Trump’s administration has expanded the ability of combatant commanders to use landmines in specific, exceptional incidents.

Previously, the only place that U.S. forces could employ landmines was on the Korean peninsula.

Trump made the decision to broaden the use of landmines as a result of a study commissioned by then-Defense Secretary James N. Mattis as part of the National Defense Strategy. “The National Defense Strategy talks about the return to great power competition,” said Vic Mercado, acting assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. “When we look at great power competition, some things come to the fore. … We are the greatest military in the world, but that advantage is diminishing.”

Mercado spoke to Pentagon reporters after White House officials announced the change.

Those studying the policy looked at it from a variety of positions: from capability gaps, risks to mission, risks to forces, political, military, technologic and diplomatic aspects. The study took about a year.

The new policy will allow combatant commanders — all four-star officers — to propose using landmines in exceptional circumstances, Mercado said. Any plan proposing the use of landmines off the Korean peninsula must be approved by the defense secretary.

The new generation of landmines also takes into account the U.S. emphasis on protecting innocent civilians. The new landmines are a significant departure from those deployed as recently as Desert Storm. These mines self-destruct or deactivate after a certain amount of time. This amount of time can be measured in hours or months. They do not stay in the ground threatening future generations.

Landmines today have the ability to self-destruct or self-deactivate to a very high degree of certainty. “The level of certainty is six in one million,” Mercado said.

Read Full Article>>

Afghan War Casualty Report: February 2020

By Fahim Abed and

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan for the month. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. The report includes government claims of insurgent casualty figures, but in most cases these cannot be independently verified by The Times. Similarly, the reports do not include Taliban claims for their attacks on the government unless they can be verified. Both sides routinely inflate casualty totals for their opponents.

Feb. 7-13, 2020

At least 33 pro-government forces and 15 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the past week. The deadliest attack took place in Kabul City, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosive in the Fifth Police District, killing four security forces and two civilians while wounding more than a dozen others. Shortly after, police forces found and defused a car bomb, while government officials said the Taliban was responsible for the attack. Earlier in the week, a person in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on Afghan troops and American forces in Sherzad District in Nangarhar, killing two American service members and one Afghan soldier. An additional six U.S. service members and three Afghan soldiers were wounded in the incident, which both American and Afghan delegations are investigating. On Monday, President Trump conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban, contingent on a reduction of violence by the group over a test period of seven days later this month. Should the deal go forward, the U.S. will gradually begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan and direct negotiations between Afghan and Taliban leaders would begin.

 

 

Feb. 12 Baghlan Province: one civilian killed

The Taliban attacked Kabul-Baghlan Highway in Doshi District, killing a truck driver, destroying his truck and taking two civilians prisoner.

Feb. 11 Badghis Province: one child killed

One child was killed and another was wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in the Nedami area of Laman village in Qala-e-Naw City, the provincial capital.

[Read the Afghan War Casualty Report from previous weeks.]

Read Full Article>>

EU Regrets US Military Policy About-Face on Landmines

BRUSSELS — The European Union expressed regret on Tuesday that the United States has decided to use anti-personnel landmines more widely and once again considers them to be an important weapon of war.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump canceled a prohibition on the use of landmines outside of the Korean peninsula. With potential future conflict with China or Russia in mind, the new policy specified no geographic limits on use of the weapons, which can kill civilians long after wars end.

The office of EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement that the U.S. move “undermines the global norm against anti-personnel mines. A norm that has saved tens of thousands of people in the past 20 years.”

 

“The majority of mine victims are children,” the statement said, adding that the use of the weapons “anywhere, anytime, and by any actor remains completely unacceptable to the European Union.”

It said that both the EU and U.S. are helping to clear minefields and destroy the explosive devices around the world, and that “the re-authorization of the use of anti-personnel mines is not only a direct contradiction to these actions but also negatively affects the international rules-based order.”

The White House said the new U.S. policy authorizes military commanders to use landmines that are “non-persistent,” meaning they have built-in mechanisms to destroy or deactivate the mine after a certain period.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had prohibited the U.S. armed forces from using them anywhere in the world except in defense of South Korea.

The deputy commander of the American-led operation in Iraq said the Pentagon was putting service members through medical examinations to see if they had traumatic brain injuries.

 
 

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

By Helene Cooper and

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday dismissed concussion symptoms reported by several American troops after Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq as “not very serious,” even as the Pentagon acknowledged that a number of service members were being examined for possible traumatic brain injury caused by the attack.

“I heard they had headaches,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “No, I don’t consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”

The comments of the president, who avoided the Vietnam War draft with a medical diagnosis of bone spurs, drew swift criticism from veterans’ groups.

“Don’t just be outraged by #PresidentMayhem’s latest asinine comments,” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote in a Twitter post. “Take action to help vets facing TBIs,” a reference to traumatic brain injury.

The deputy commander of the American-led military operation in Iraq said the Defense Department was putting the service members through medical examinations to see if the headaches and other complaints amounted to traumatic stress injuries. Some of the affected troops were mere feet away from where the Iranian missiles struck, although they were in protective bunkers, Defense Department officials said.

“I haven’t seen the president’s comments, so I won’t comment on them,” Maj. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich of the Air Force told reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon. “I probably wouldn’t even if I had.”

He added: “I can just tell you from the perspective of a commander on the ground that we’re going to take symptoms from any kind of injury as seriously as we can.”

At a separate event earlier in the day, General Grynkewich denied that the White House had influenced how and when the military acknowledged that several American troops at the Asad base in Iraq had concussion symptoms as a result of the Iranian missile strikes and were being flown to a United States military hospital in Germany for treatment.

“We were not influenced by anyone,” he said.

The Trump administration had initially said that there were no injuries from the Iranian attack. If there was any delay in reporting the injuries, General Grynkewich said, it was because “it takes a bit of time for information to work its way up the chain of command” and eventually to the Pentagon.

Read Full Article>>

 

At war with the truth

U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it, an exclusive Post investigation found.

By Craig Whitlock

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

The Afghanistan Papers

Part 1: At war with the truth

Part 1

At war with the truth

U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

Part 2

Stranded without a strategy

Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.

Part 3

Built to fail

Despite vows the U.S. wouldn’t get mired in “nation-building,” it has wasted billions doing just that

Part 4

Consumed by corruption

The U.S. flooded the country with money — then turned a blind eye to the graft it fueled

Part 5

Unguarded nation

Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption

Part 6

Overwhelmed by opium

The U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn

Interviews and memos

Explore the documents

Key insiders speak bluntly about the failures of the longest conflict in U.S. history

Post Reports

‘We didn’t know what the task was’

Hear candid interviews with former ambassador Ryan Crocker and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn

The fight for the documents

About the investigation

It took three years and two federal lawsuits for The Post to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records

More stories

A visual timeline of the war

Interviewees respond

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

Click any underlined text in the story to see the statement in the original document

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction .?.?. 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Papers

See the documents More than 2,000 pages of interviews and memos reveal a secret history of the war.

Part 2: Stranded without a strategy Conflicting objectives dogged the war from the start.

Responses to The Post from people named in The Afghanistan Papers

With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.

The interviews also highlight the U.S. government’s botched attempts to curtail runaway corruption, build a competent Afghan army and police force, and put a dent in Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade.

The U.S. government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war in Afghanistan, but the costs are staggering.

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Those figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

Read Full Article>>

 

Wounded American Soldier

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection

Recent Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two Airmen who were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. They died January 27 in the crash of a Bombardier E-11A aircraft in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Killed were:

Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, of Yigo, Guam. He was assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. For more information, media may contact the Air Combat Command public affairs office at (757) 764-5007.

Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, of Hudson, New Hampshire. He was assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

 

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Both soldiers were killed in action yesterday when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The incident is under investigation.

The deceased are:

Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia.

Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois.

Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Spc. Antonio I. Moore, 22, from Wilmington, N.C., died January 24, 2020 in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria, during a rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations. The incident is under investigation.

Moore was assigned to 363rd Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, Knightdale, N.C.

Afghan War Casualty Report: February 2020

By Fahim Abed and

The following report compiles all significant security incidents confirmed by New York Times reporters throughout Afghanistan for past seven days. It is necessarily incomplete as many local officials refuse to confirm casualty information. The report includes government claims of insurgent casualty figures, but in most cases these cannot be independently verified by The Times. Similarly, the reports do not include Taliban claims for their attacks on the government unless they can be verified. Both sides routinely inflate casualty totals for their opponents.

Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2020

At least 23 pro-government forces and seven civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the past week. The deadliest attack took place in Sar-i-Pul Province, where the Taliban ambushed a pro-government militia in the capital and killed the commander, one of his soldiers and an additional four members of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. One day earlier, in Kunduz Province, the Taliban attacked a security outpost in Ali Abad District, killing five police officers and wounding three others before security forces successfully pushed the insurgents back.

 

Feb. 4 Badghis Province: one police officer killed

A police officer was killed in a Taliban sniper attack in the village of Firoozah in Muqur District.

Feb. 4 Faryab Province: one police officer killed

The Taliban attacked the center of Shirin Tagab District, where fighting continued for three hours. One member of a police special forces unit was killed, as were two Taliban fighters, according to local authorities.

Read Full Article>>

[Read the Afghan War Casualty Report from previous weeks.]

War Casualties By Name

 

Complete Military and Civilian Casualty Lists

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan>>

Care for War on Terror Veterans

Veterans Health Administration>>

Vet Center Program>>

Military Health System>>

 

Save The Children Organization

 

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Let Us Never Forget

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One Response to “U.S. Foreign Policy And Wars”

  1. 1
    Paul Says:

    THE NEVER ENDING WAR. Which apparently is just fine with most Americans as our nation and the planet hurls itself towards a new Dark Age.

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