SOFA

Will Kabul blast mean new Afghanistan surge?

At least 90 were killed and some 400 others injured in a huge car-bomb explosion in Kabul May 31, targeting the city's diplomatic district of Wazir Akbar Khan, near the presidential palace. Most of the victims were civilians on their way to work during the morning rush hour. There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast, but the Afghan intelligence service NDS said in a statement that the Haqqani Network is suspected. Afghanistan has charged that the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network receives support from Pakistan's intelligence agency. Taliban mouthpiece Zabihullah Mujahid released a statement denying responsibility in the attack, but days earlier he had issued a statement as Ramadan opened, calling jihad "obligatory worship" and pledging no let-up in attacks.

US Marines back to Afghanistan's opium heartland

US Marines this month returned to Helmand province, now the epicenter both of Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency and opium production. Ostensibly, the mission is to train Afghan forces struggling to stem the insurgency, but the Marines certainly have the power to fire if fired upon. Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand under NATO's Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province—where almost 1,000 coalition troops (mostly US and British) were killed fighting the Taliban before they pulled out in 2014. When they left, as part of that year's supposed US "withdrawal" from Afghanistan, they handed over the sprawling desert base they dubbed Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, hoping not to return. Now they have.

Iraq in talks for long-term US troop presence

The Trump administration is in talks with Baghdad on keeping US troops in Iraq after the fight against ISIS in the country is over, the Associated Press reported May 5. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, are discussing "what the long-term US presence would look like," a US official told the AP. The official said "several thousand... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more," troops would stay in the country, but added that discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalized."

US prepares ground troops for Syria

The Pentagon is dispatching some 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait, from where they are expected to be mobilized to back up forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The deployment includes elements of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Bragg, NC. About 1,700 troops from the same unit are already overseas, spread between Iraq and Kuwait. (Army Times, March 9) The US currently has only some 500 troops authorized to operate in Syria, predominantly Special Forces, and it is unclear if this new deployment breaches that threshold. However, the US Special Forces in Syria are increasingly tasked with keeping peace between Kurdish and Turkish forces rather than actually fighting ISIS. Special Forces are currently deployed at Manbij in what the Pentagon calls a mission to "reassure and deter"—interpreted as providing a buffer between Kurdish-led and Turkish-led forces, to prevent open conflict between them. (Military Times, March 6)

US general in Afghanistan calls for more troops

The top US military commander in Afghanistan told lawmakers Feb. 9 that he needs several thousand additional troops to break "a stalemate" in the 15-year-old war against the Taliban and other insurgents. Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee that more troops could come from the US or other NATO members, and would be tasked with training Afghanistan's security forces to provide better offensive capabilities. Under questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the  general said did not need 50,000 troops in the country, but did not rule out the potential for up to 30,000. There are currently some 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan, with 38 other NATO members providing about 6,300 troops.

'Factually Incorrect' with Bill Weinberg: episode 1

Bill Weinberg fights the post-truth plague by taking down fiction-spewing bloviators whether of the left or right—starting with Jimmy Dore of  "Aggressive Progressive" vlog.

More US troops to Iraq —on whose side?

The Pentagon plans to send some 600 additional troops to Iraq to help launch a long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS in the coming weeks. Added to the 560 new troops announced in July, this will bring total US troop strength in Iraq to over 5,000. Most of the new troops will be deployed to Qayyarah, an Iraqi air-base also known as Q-West, about 40 miles south of Mosul that has become the key staging base for the offensive. Some also will be deployed to the al-Asad base, which is further west in Anbar province. (LAT, Sept. 28)

Iraq: 560 more US troops for Mosul offensive

The US will send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help secure a newly retaken air-base as a staging hub for the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during an unannounced visit to the country July 11. Most of the new troops will be devoted to the perparing the Qayara airbase, some 64 kilometers south of Mosul. They will help Iraqi forces planning the drive on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The increase brings the total US force in Iraq to 4,647. Unofficially, that figure is probably closer to 6,000, as troops who deploy on temporary assignments are not included in the Pentagon's official tally. Taqqadum, a base in Anbar governorate where US troops train Iraqis., served a key role in the taking of Ramadi late last year, and more recently Fallujah. (Al Jazeera, WP)