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Search Tags: Afghanistan
Army aviators — the soldiers who fly attack missions, ferry troops and supplies and evacuate the wounded — are in ever-increasing demand even as America eyes the exits in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan conflict, which marked its 10th anniversary Friday, is in many ways a helicopter war.
"We are just beginning to get set in Afghanistan ... in doing everything that we can" says Ashton Carter, the Defense Department's chief weapons buyer. He said, because the country is so remote and lacks infrastructure, stopping roadside bombs there is much more difficult that it was in Iraq. Carter and General Jay Paxton Jr. are heading up a new task force to figure out how to deal with improvised explosive devices. A taskforce to do just that is already at work, but appears to have fallen victim to bureaucracy.
The use of homemade bombs extends well beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, making the weapons a global problem that requires an international solution, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. The According to the Associated Press, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz told Congress there have been more than 3,500 incidents around the world involving improvised explosive devices in the past year and the number is growing. "Violent extremists will continue to wage conflict against human targets and the weapon of choice will continue to be the IED," he said at a hearing held by the House Armed Services oversight and investigations subcommittee. The definition of an incident in this case includes IEDs that have exploded, failed to work, or were found and cleared. Metz, who heads the Pentagon office tasked with countering IEDs, also said his organization is working to improve its operations and how it coordinates with the military services to ensure troops in the field have the best technology and training to counter the makeshift bombs.
The Pentagon is investigating allegations that official money was used to create an under-the-table group of spys to hunt down terrorists in Afghanistan. In the meantime the list of top al Qaida and Taliban operatives killed or captured continues to grow. Predator drones have been the principle weapon, but human intelligence has been a key as well. Previously, many drone strikes have missed the mark, because of weak or faulty intelligence, the success is appearing to improve.
The U.S. offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan appears to have been a success, so far, says Rear Admiral Greg Smith. "There are probably several more weeks of what we call clearing operations. Meanwhile in other parts of Marjah, bazaars are opening, life is beginning to return to pre-operational sort of levels of activity." Smith says this campaign was not designed to go after the Taliban. "The Marjah operation was not about trying to go in and kill the Taliban. It was really trying to separate the Taliban from the people."
The Associated Press says at least 868 members of the U.S. military have died in Central and South Asia since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. The Defense Department says at least 669 military personnel died in the Afghan region as a result of hostile action. Outside the Afghan region, the department reports 72 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Other supporting the operation have died in Cuba, Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia
Are there problems ahead for the Obama administration and Pakistan? If the current situation is any indication, there may be. The U.S. wants the Pakistanis to engage Afghan militants operating in Pakistan to assist the NATO war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan says it has its hands full with its own war. This is a serious problem, because the U.S. needs Pakistani cooperation on this in order to make its new strategy on the Afghan war to work.
State Hillary Clinton met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and reassured him the commitment to Afghanistan is not open would not need to be open-ended. "The need for additional forces is urgent, but their presence will not be indefinite," she said, noting that Obama's timeline called for Afghans to begin taking over in July 2011. "At that time, we will begin to transfer authority and responsibility to Afghan security forces, removing combat forces from Afghanistan over time with the assurance that Afghanistan's future, and ours, is secure," Clinton said.
The President is expected to send 30-40 thousand more US troops to Afghanistan, but they will not be the only ones going there. NATO will probably be sending more troops as well --Maybe as many as 10,000. What will the international troops be doing? It largely depends on what strategy the US chooses. They're expected to have a significant impact on training Afghans in the civilian sector and law enforcement areas. Whatever role they play, it's very likely they'll be there for a number of years.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. is going to do its part to reduce corruption in Afghanistan by examining its own contracts and projects, even as it is demanding the same from the Afghan government. "The place for us to start is to deal with corruption that may be associated with contracts we're letting or work that we're having done and development projects that we are undertaking in partnership with others including with the Afghans," said Gates. He made the comments while speaking to reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia.