SitRep: Trump’s War in Afghanistan; USS John S. McCain Limps into Port, 10 Sailors Missing
With Adam Rawnsley Trump’s War. President Donald Trump is about to take ownership of the 16-year U.S.war in Afghanistan, and will announce his decision on the way forward tonight at 9pm in a nationally televised address. While administration officials remain tight-lipped about what the new plan entails, indications are it will follow much of ...
With Adam Rawnsley
Trump’s War. President Donald Trump is about to take ownership of the 16-year U.S.war in Afghanistan, and will announce his decision on the way forward tonight at 9pm in a nationally televised address.
While administration officials remain tight-lipped about what the new plan entails, indications are it will follow much of what top military officials have been pushing for since the spring. That plan — which the president had repeatedly rejected since May — calls for the deployment of several thousand more U.S. troops to train Afghan forces, and continue to counterterrorism fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State.
The options. For an insider’s view of what the options were — including plans to go after the country’s mineral wealth, cut off aid to Pakistan, and install a mercenary force to replace U.S. troops — head on over to the definitive account FP published Friday. The president gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the power to send up to 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan earlier this summer, but the secretary refused to do so without a new strategy in place, signed off on by the president.
Backsliding. According to a report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, only about 57 percent of the districts in the country were under the Afghan government’s control as of November 2016, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year.
More special ops. Afghanistan’s special operations forces number about 21,000 troops, which ”account for only 7 percent of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. But they do from 70 percent to 80 percent of the actual fighting,” according to the NYT.
There are plans to double the number of commandos, and Maj. Gen. James Linder, the head of U.S. and NATO special operations forces in Afghanistan, said Sunday the nearly 4,000 troops requested by the Pentagon for Afghanistan includes about 460 trainers to help increase the size of the commandos. The head of all U.S. and NATO forces in the country, Gen. John Nicholson, told those forces at a base just outside of Kabul on Sunday that “I assure you we are with you in this fight. We are with you and we will stay with you.”
USS McCain enters port. The search continues for 10 missing U.S. sailors from the USS John S. McCain, which was rammed by the massive 600-foot Alnic MC cargo ship about 6:30am on Monday near the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, ripping a hole in the side of the destroyer.
The McCain arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore with the sailors still unaccounted for, but ships and aircraft from the U.S. and several partner nations continue the search for them. The McCain incident was the second involving a ship from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.
Latest from the U.S. Navy: the ship sustained “significant damage to the hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding.”
War game on. The U.S. and South Korea kicked off an annual joint military exercises on Monday, while North Korea warned that the drills would deepen tensions on the Korean Peninsula by “throwing fuel onto fire.” There are about 17,000 American troops taking part in the several weeks of exercises that come amid a spate of North Korean ballistic missile tests that have raised tensions on the peninsula.
War drums. The Trump White House has been debating the merits of a military strike on North with an intensity seen “not since 2002, as the United States built a case for war in Iraq,” according to The New York Times. The Trump administration is reportedly breaking with previous approaches to Pyongyang by assuming that the North cannot be deterred from a nuclear strike and showing a willingness to bear the horrific price of triggering a war.
Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.
Radio Free Pyongyang. The BBC’s World Service is setting is sights on North Korea, readying a Korean-language broadcast service made for the information-starved Stalinist dictatorship. The radio show will consist of 30 minutes of news broadcast in the dead of night so that North Koreans can listen to the (very much illegal) show with less fear of being caught by neighbors or authorities.
Posters. Everyone loves North Korea’s colorfully aggro propaganda art but Pyongyang has now updated its posters to include its arsenal of newly-tested ballistic missiles.
Iraq. Iraqi troops are spearheading an assault against one of the Islamic State’s last remaining strongholds in the town of Tal Afar. As many as 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside the Western Iraq town and humanitarian organizations are urging the U.S-backed coalition to exercise care to protect them during the liberation operation.
Sonic attack. The bizarre “sonic weapon” allegedly used against American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba injured more people than was originally reported. Sources tell CNN that 10 American diplomats and family members were injured by the as-yet unidentified acoustic device, more than just the two diplomats originally reported to have suffered permanent hearing loss. Five Canadian diplomats were reportedly injured as well.
I keep this. Siemens wanted its generators seized after Russia allegedly diverted them to a project in occupied Crimea, the subject of European sanctions. But now a Russian court has told the German industrial giant that it won’t impound the generators, which Russia needs in order to provide power to the electricity-starved Ukrainian province.
Beggars and choosers. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is telling Western countries he doesn’t want their cooperation on security until they cut ties with rebel groups. Assad also ruled out a resumption of normal diplomatic relations until countries stopped supporting rebels. “At that point maybe we can speak about opening embassies,” he said.
Rumble at the top of the world. Video of an apparent clash between Chinese and Indian troops near the border between India and China has surfaced on social media. The video purports to show soldiers from the two countries engaging in fistfights and stone-throwing at Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
History. The Los Angeles Times unearths the strange tale of an American pilot who crashed in rural China during World War II and was pressed into slavery by local villagers.
Indianapolis. A team lead by billionaire former Microsoft executive Paul Allen discovered the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis at the bottom of the Philippine Sea. The Indianapolis ferried parts for the first atomic bomb before the Japanese sunk . Only 317 of the original 1,196 crew survived the sinking, the majority of them dying from exposure and shark attacks after being stranded at sea once the Indianapolis went down.
Photo Credit: JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images
Paul McLeary was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2015-2018.
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