Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Carlo Munoz / Stars and Stripes & Stephen Miles / Win Without War – 2015-01-10 01:22:03
War’s Not Over: US Marines Quietly Return to Afghanistan
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 8, 2015) — As recently as last week, the Obama Administration was loudly trumpeting the Afghan War as over. They’d been drawing down troops for months, making a huge deal of withdrawing the last of the US Marines from the nation back in October.
Much less publicized are this week’s muted news releases, in which the Marine Corps are reporting plans to return to occupied Afghanistan for “security operations.”
Throughout December, despite the claims of the war ending, Marines were carrying out training scenarios for their return to Afghanistan. Officials are, however, declining to say exactly when they’ll return, how many there’ll be, or what they’ll be doing.
NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove is giving us the broadest strokes of it, however, telling Stars and Stripes today that the American public needs to prepare itself for more US casualties in Afghanistan, saying it was “unavoidable.”
Expect More US Casualties in Afghanistan,
Top NATO Commander Says
Carlo Munoz / Stars and Stripes
KABUL, Afghanistan (January 8, 2015) — Americans must be prepared for more US casualties in Afghanistan even after the declared end to NATO’s combat mission in the country, the alliance’s supreme commander warned Thursday.
“All of us as commanders have reminded our senior leadership . . . the war in Afghanistan has not ended, (just) the combat mission for NATO,” Gen. Philip Breedlove told Stars and Stripes.
“It’s hard to say, but we are going to continue to have (American) casualties” in Afghanistan, Breedlove said in an interview at Bagram Airfield.
“It is going to be unavoidable,” he added.
Breedlove’s comments came just days after American and allied forces officially closed the book on the 13-year International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, shifting to a lower-key advisory role named Resolute Support.
At the time, the Obama White House and top US commanders in Afghanistan heralded the transition as a crucial milestone in ending America’s longest war. The move represented “an end of an era and the beginning of a new one” in Afghanistan, ISAF commander Gen. John Campbell said at the command’s end-of-mission ceremony in Kabul on Dec. 28.
As part of the new NATO mission, roughly 12,500 troops — about 6,000 of them from allied nations — remain on the ground to train and advise Afghanistan’s army and police. Not all of the roughly 10,600 US troops in Afghanistan as part of the US operation Freedom’s Sentinel are assigned to Resolute Support.
Some will conduct counterterrorism and related operations. The number of American troops is slated to drop to 5,500 by the end of this year, with all US forces scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2016.
After the collapse last summer of Iraq’s US-trained army when confronted by a surprise attack by fast-moving Islamist forces, analysts and US lawmakers have warned that a similar scenario could unfold in Afghanistan if international troops pulled out too precipitously, leaving the government forces to fend for themselves.
While American and NATO troops are no longer the main fighting force in Afghanistan, US troops will continue to be in the line of fire on a regular basis during the follow-on mission, Maj. Gen. John Murray, deputy commander for US Forces-Afghanistan, said Tuesday.
“We are not going out on kill/capture missions anymore, (but) this is still a very dangerous place,” Murray said in an interview at the command’s headquarters at Bagram. “There are going to be some hard questions when we lose (the first) soldier” under Resolute Support.
Despite those risks, American troops in postwar Afghanistan “can’t just sit on the FOB” and completely disengage from the security threats facing Afghan forces, Murray said, referring to the 23 remaining US forward operating bases scattered across Afghanistan.
The upcoming fighting season, the first under Resolute Support, will be American commanders’ “last good year to have an impact” on Afghanistan’s postwar future.
In November, Campbell, the top US officer in Afghanistan, said in interviews he was reviewing whether Afghan forces were ready and whether he should recommend through his chain of command that additional NATO forces stay longer. Earlier this month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suggested Washington re-examine its future plans because of a resurgent Taliban and the possible threat from other insurgent groups in the region.
“Are we looking at contingencies? Absolutely,” Murray said when asked about possible changes to the postwar mission. But “this is not (Operation Enduring Freedom) . . . that is part of the mind-set we are going to [have to] get used to,” he said.
ACTION ALERT: Ask Obama to End Washington’s Wars
Stephen Miles / Win Without War
(January 8, 2015) — Itâ€™s 2015, and Americaâ€™s longest war continues.
President Obama has promised to end the war in Afghanistan before he leaves office, but political forces could get in the way of that agreement. In his first interview on American television, Afghanistanâ€™s new president, Ashraf Ghani, said that President Obama should â€œre-examineâ€ his plan to end endless war and bring all US troops home.
The human cost of war is devastating, both to local populations and to our service members. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.
At least 6,800 US service members never came home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and tens of thousands more came home wounded. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day and untold numbers suffer from the invisible wounds of war. By any measure, these costs are simply far too high.
We cannot afford endless war. President Obama should honor his promise and move the US off of a perpetual war footing. Please sign our petition to President Obama: â€œWar isn’t working. Bring all our troops home!”
Thank you for working for peace.
Stephen Miles is the Advocacy Director at Win Without War.
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