Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
War Watch June 5 , 2014 -- Updates on Syria situation and ongoing Civil War in Iraq ....... Winding down of Afghanistan War continues ( War waste detailed - There is roughly $36 billion of U.S. military equipment currently in Afghanistan, which in its used state is now worth about $8 billion. Of that, only $3 billion to $4 billion worth will be shipped out of the country, largely by air, and on to foreign ports for the return journey home. The rest will be destroyed, given away or perhaps sold..)
Previously reported as an attack on a village or villages, locals now say the 193 were mostly students, and that they were kidnapped in several ambushes of groups of students and parents on their way to final exams in Aleppo. They were reportedly taken to a prison in AQI-held Manbij.
Exactly what their status is also remains a subject of speculation, with some reporting a vague email, claiming to be from AQI, saying the students have been taken to a “mandatory” class on Islamic law and would be released upon completion of it.
By contrast, others are saying the students are being held hostage pending a trade with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a major Kurdish militia in northeastern Syria which holds a number of AQI members captured in fighting.
In Anbar, a suicide bomber successfully assassinated the head of the Ramadi Sahwa group. Bombers, meanwhile, struck in Kirkuk and Hilla.
A suicide bomber targeting Sahwa members struck at a camp for refugees nearRamadi. href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/suicide-attack-kills-8-people-in-western-iraq/2014/06/04/68cc96fc-ebca-11e3-b10e-5090cf3b5958_story.html”>killed eight people and wounded 14 more. One of the dead was the nephew of the leader of the Anbar Awakening Council. He headed up the group in Ramadi.
(Reuters) - A NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan next year is likely to total about 12,000 soldiers, including about 8,000 Americans, while some 1,800 Americans will conduct counter-terrorism missions, a senior U.S. military official said on Wednesday.
The United States would also be keen to see participation in the counter-terrorism effort by nations with well-trained special forces, such as Britain or Australia, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The 12,000 figure for the NATO training mission given by the official on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels was at the high end of planning assumptions previously spoken of in NATO corridors.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last week that the United States will cut its force inAfghanistan to 9,800 from the start of next year, split between soldiers who will form part of the NATO training mission and others who will be part of a U.S. mission to combat al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
The United States had not said how many soldiers would be in each mission, "but my assessment is that somewhere on the order of 8,000 will be part of the NATO mission ... and the overall number of 12,000 did include as a planning figure 8,000 U.S. and 4,000 NATO," the official said.
"There are a number of nations that have some very high-end special operations forces that we would welcome as part of that effort," he said.
AL QAEDA FOCUS
Lack of clarity about the counter-terrorism mission until now had hindered detailed discussions on what Britain or Australia might want to contribute, the U.S. official said.
The goal of the mission is to keep up pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan to prevent them carrying out attacks in the West.
The United States originally intervened in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a sanctuary after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Both a NATO and U.S. presence in Afghanistan after the end of this year, when NATO-led combat operations are due to end, depend on Afghanistan signing a security agreement with the United States setting a legal basis.
President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, but the leading candidates in Afghanistan's presidential race, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have both pledged to sign the security agreement as soon as possible, if they are elected in a second round of voting scheduled for June 14.
The plan outlined by Obama foresees a cut in the U.S. troop presence to about half of the 9,800 number by the end of 2015, when U.S. forces will pull back from provincial bases to Kabul and Bagram, the largest U.S. base to the north of the capital.
The U.S. timetable means that NATO's original plan to train the Afghan army from the capital Kabul and four regional bases around Afghanistan is likely to last for just one year.
Kabul will be the focus of the U.S. training effort in 2016.
Germany will lead training of Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan and Italy in the west, but it is unclear whether their regional missions will continue beyond 2015, given the planned U.S. pullback to Kabul and Bagram.
Trashed: U.S. Gear in Afghanistan to be Sold, Scrapped
Billions worth of equipment will be left in a country with a legacy of foreign invasion.
Much of the U.S. military equipment currently in Afghanistan will be destroyed or disposed of by 2016.
About half of the U.S. military vehicles still in Afghanistan – worth billions of dollars – aren’t coming home, and instead will be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by 2016, officials say. An even higher percentage of the rest of the remaining equipment also will be scrapped or left behind.
U.S. troops received their marching orders last week for their final years in Afghanistan: President Barack Obama said 9,800 will remain in the country after the end of 2014. Half of those troops will come out by the end of next year, followed by the remainder by the end of 2016. The only military personnel enduring past then will be the “normal military presence” at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, working on foreign military sales and assistance.
There is roughly $36 billion of U.S. military equipment currently in Afghanistan, which in its used state is now worth about $8 billion. Of that, only $3 billion to $4 billion worth will be shipped out of the country, largely by air, and on to foreign ports for the return journey home. The rest will be destroyed, given away or perhaps sold.
The total cost for moving all the equipment is as much as $6 billion.
“A lot of the cargo will come out and be reset to be used by the Department of Defense,” says Army Col. Glenn Baca, operations chief for the Military's Surface Deployment Distribution Command. Some of the equipment will return to military depot yards to be refurbished and redistributed to Army or Marine Corps units. “Then there is some equipment that is in excess to the U.S. Department of Defense’s needs.”
An older MRAP model designed for Iraq.
Those supplies, vehicles or pieces of gear are either worn out or technologically outdated. Some will be given to the Afghan government or put on the market for foreign military sales. For example, about 150 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, are to be sold to the Croatian government. All foreign militaries are responsible for shipping the equipment they purchase, Baca says.
There were about 20,000 vehicles in Afghanistan when the drawdown efforts began. Roughly half are still there: 5,000 to 7,000 will be brought back to the U.S. this year, and roughly 5,000 will be disposed of or left in Afghanistan by 2016.
The drawdown remains dangerous work. Military intelligence indicates the number of attacks against outbound shipments has stayed within “historical norms,” Baca says, despite the total number of troops in Afghanistan shrinking from more than 100,000 to its current level of just 32,800.
“We haven’t had one security instance which has inhibited our ability to move,” he adds.
Ending the war footing in Afghanistan represents a herculean effort for logistics teams aiming to pull out or otherwise dispose of all the equipment in landlocked Afghanistan, which at its peak in 2011 was home to 101,000 U.S. troops. U.S. News visited a string of closing forward operating bases and airfields last summer.
"It's almost like cleaning out a basement," Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jason Lamoureux, a terminal manager at Bagram Air Field, said last July. "There's some ugly stuff coming through."
A newer MRAP model designed for Afghanistan.
All U.S. bases in Afghanistan are shrinking, except for the sprawling Bagram in eastern Afghanistan, considered a key linchpin for international air traffic. It showed no signs of downsizing last summer, and instead was home to new construction projects.
Afghanistan’s geographic position means the drawdown effort takes place largely by ground or, if the military is willing to pay the much higher price, by air. The $6 billion price tag for the remaining drawdown efforts depends on no major kinks related to the outbound land routes.
Last summer, roughly 90 percent of U.S. shipments out of Afghanistan were traveling by ground. Political troubles, particularly with countries like neighboring Pakistan, now have forced the U.S. to lean on the more expeditious but significantly more expensive air option.
Pakistan has routinely closed off use of its overland routes, citing anger over U.S. policies that include the use of armed drones in the country's tribal northern reaches. Road closures then prompt immediate storage costs, while drivers are forced to wait, Baca says.
“The benefit is it can be done much more expeditiously” by air, Baca says. The military has also switched its food distribution contractor to a company that, unlike its predecessor, moves the bulk of its shipments by air.
The other ground alternative is the Northern Distribution Network, a particularly complicated route out of northern Afghanistan that entails traveling through Central Asia, Russia and up through to the Baltics.
“That route had a lot of value for us when Pakistan was locked up, but it’s a route that takes a long time to transit,” Baca says. Recent tensions with Russia have not caused any logistical problems with the route, he says, though U.S. military planners are now taking further precautions: Every single piece of equipment that enters or exits Russia is carefully logged to ensure that it completes the journey.
“Let’s say the Russians were to shut down the roads … We need to know what we have in Russia," he says, adding the U.S. does not want any cargo stuck there. So far, there have been no problems clearing the shipments through Russian customs.
“Materially, the situation hasn’t affected the way we move cargo. It has made us monitor more closely the cargo that is transiting in case the situation changes rapidly,” he says.