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U.S. efforts in Afghanistan a tactical success, but strategic failure: Milley

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(Last Updated On: October 13, 2021)

US Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called U.S. efforts in Afghanistan a “tactical success, but a strategic failure.”

The Afghan government and military fell to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) faster than anyone expected, and that was the failure, he said.

But the noncombatant evacuation operation managed to get more than 124,000 people out of Kabul, as the IEA entered the Afghan capital. The effort involved thousands of service members from around the world, Milley said as cited by the US Department of Defense.

Air Force Major General Corey J. Martin discussed the operation last week with the Defense Writers Group. The keys to the evacuation operation were connectivity and planning, he said.

Planning for the noncombatant evacuation operation began in April, immediately after President Joe Biden said the U.S. effort in Afghanistan would end, the DOD reported. “It started with planning, even though the timing of this event was not known,” Martin said.

Members of U.S. Transportation Command integrated with representatives of the U.S. Central Command and the Joint Staff to plan and execute the retrograde operation of U.S. forces and equipment from Afghanistan, he said.

In August, the IEA offensive against the former Afghan government intensified and provinces were taken. Martin said the speed of the collapse was “a bit of a surprise,” but the Transcom planners were not starting from scratch when the need for evacuation became apparent.

Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command, had another ace up his sleeve in preparing for the possible operation, Martin said. “General Lyons, as the commander of Transportation Command, has standing authorities that allow for rapid and agile repositioning of mobility forces,” Martin told the reporters.

It allows the command to direct the operational movement of C-17s or KC-135 aircraft quicker, he said.

The speed was needed as the dissolution of the former Afghan forces necessitated the transport of U.S. combat forces to secure the Kabul airport.
The command had to get 6,000 service members and their supplies to the country quickly.

The aircraft and personnel to maintain and fuel them were already in place, and it “allowed the operational movement to be ready to take combat forces, literally almost overnight to Hamid Karzai International (airport) in the face of the advancing Taliban (IEA) to secure that airfield, and allowed for the movement of evacuees out, and then the redeployment of the combat forces,” Martin said.

Connectivity among the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the U.S. combatant commands was paramount. Martin said there were constant communications with higher headquarters and with U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Northern Command.

In addition, there were nationals from many allied and partner countries in Kabul. Martin said at least 30 nations cooperated with the effort, which required constant communications with State Department colleagues, Homeland Security and more.

Martin said the Global Operations Center at Scott Air Force Base, in the U.S. was the “heartbeat” of the command with all elements represented. “At the action officer level, there was integration with Department of State personnel, Customs and Border Patrol, and the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration],” he said.

The overall effort was mammoth and complex, Martin said. It is more than the gray Globemaster C-17s. It was the personnel maintaining the aircraft. It was the refuelers — in the air and on the ground. It was the combat troops on the ground and the airmen who took over the air traffic control in Afghanistan for the operation. It was State Department personnel processing the evacuees.

It was the Air Force and Navy air combat patrols over Kabul, and the service members at intermediate bases in the Middle East and Europe. It was the service members and agency partners in the United States. It was the companies and crews of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. It was intelligence professionals funneling information to the command.

All these people combined to make the noncombatant evacuation operation from Afghanistan a “tactical success,” Martin said.

Transcom is already looking at the experiences in this effort to see what can be done better, the general said.

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Karzai says Pakistan must not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the current Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) government in needs internal legitimacy in order for it to gain international recognition and that Pakistan should not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs.

In an interview with VOA, Karzai said that internal legitimacy could only be achieved through the expression of the will of the Afghan people, either in the form of elections or holding the Loya Jirga, a traditional grand council.

He said that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in its history and Afghans have a responsibility to “unite” and create a government premised on “the expression of the will of the Afghan people.”

“Legitimacy within our own country for this government (IEA) or for any other government is the foundation of recognition by countries and the international community,” Karzai said.

Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quresh, have advocated for the IEA and have urged the international community to work with the new government in Kabul.

“If we neglect Afghanistan right now, there’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead, and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere,” Imran Khan told the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan. What have the Taliban (IEA) promised? They will respect human rights, they will have an inclusive government, they will not allow this soil to be used by terrorists,” Khan added.

Karzai told VOA that Pakistan is not the representative of the Afghan people.

“My message to Pakistan, our brotherly country, is that they should not try to represent Afghanistan. On the contrary, the country should try to establish a civil relationship with our country,” he said.

“We have deep people-to-people relations with Pakistan. … Our hope from Pakistan is that the country should not try to maintain its relations with us through interference, the encouragement of extremism and terrorism or by force, but rather establish relations with Afghanistan through civil principles and principles of international relations, and we will happily maintain that relationship with them,” he added.

Karzai also voiced concerns about the Islamic State (Daesh) terror group’s uptick in violence in Afghanistan and deemed it a threat to both Afghanistan and the region.

The militant group’s local branch, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for several vicious attacks in recent weeks in Kabul, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces, where more than 100 civilians have been killed and many others wounded.

“As proven by the unfortunate bomb blasts — rather, suicide attacks in the mosque in Kabul two weeks ago, then in Kunduz last week, and then in Kandahar yesterday (October 15) — this has proven that Daesh is a threat to Afghanistan and to the life and livelihood of the Afghan people,” Karzai said.

Karzai showed optimism that the region will support Afghanistan in its fight against Daesh because it could pose a threat to their security. In addition, he said he hopes that regional powers would seek common ground in Afghanistan,.

He said it is Afghanistan’s responsibility to work with other countries in the region in a way that results in peace and stability.

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U.S. Secretary of State Blinken discusses Afghanistan with Qatar

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, thanking Qatar for helping with evacuations from Kabul, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani about Afghanistan. Secretary Blinken thanked Qatar for its strong partnership on regional security issues and assistance to safely transit U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent

The readout of the call released by the State Department did not given any details, except that Blinken acknowledged Qatar’s assistance to transit U.S. citizens and Afghans at risk.

On Wednesday, Qatar’s foreign minister proposed creating a unified platform for international cooperation on Afghanistan.

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Russia-led bloc holds large-scale drills near Tajik-Afghan border

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

A Russia-led post-Soviet security bloc started its largest military drills near the Tajik-Afghan border in years on Monday amid cross-border tensions ahead of talks between Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders and major regional powers, Reuters reported.

Unlike Afghanistan’s other northern neighbours who have de facto acknowledged the IEA leadership and started building working relationships with Kabul, Tajikistan has refused to recognise the IEA and there are reports of troop build-ups on both sides of the border.

According to the report the exercise carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will involve over 5,000 servicemen, more than half of them Russian soldiers, Russia and Tajikistan’s defence ministries said.

The six-day drills follow a series of smaller-scale exercises held in the vicinity of the Afghan border by Russia and its Central Asian allies in August and September.

Russia is worried about the possibility of Islamist militants infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Moscow views as its southern defensive buffer, Reuters reported.

Moscow operates a military base in the former Soviet republic and has reassured Dushanbe it would assist it in the event of any cross-border intrusion.

A high-level IEA delegation is set to visit Moscow this week for talks that will also involve China, Pakistan, India and Iran, although a senior Russian official has been reported as saying he did not expect any breakthrough.

Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, also said officials from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan would meet separately in Moscow on Tuesday to come up with a united position on the changing situation in Afghanistan.

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