The Living Force
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives at the Fort Bragg courthouse for a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, on Fort Bragg, N.C.

On Stand, Bergdahl Apologizes to Those Hurt Looking for Him 30 Oct 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — In an unexpected and emotional statement, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl apologized in court Monday to all the military personnel who were wounded searching for him and described the daily nightmares and flashbacks to his five years in captivity of Taliban allies he still endures.

Bergdahl was the first witness in what's expected to be a multi-day presentation by the defense to the judge who will decide his punishment for endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He spoke for two hours, giving a wide-ranging description of his brutal years in captivity and what challenges he still faces with daily life.

"I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen," he said, choking up at times. "My words alone can't take away their pain."

Bergdahl faces a maximum of life in prison after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

His appearance on the witness stand, which the defense hadn't publicly made known in advance, served as a dramatic counterpoint to several days of emotionally wrenching testimony by several service members who were seriously wounded during a massive search effort. He described the brutal conditions he faced, including beatings with copper wire and unending bouts of gastrointestinal problems brought on by squalid conditions. He was kept in a cage for four out of the five years after several escape attempts, and his muscles atrophied to the point he could barely stand or walk.

Asked by a defense attorney what the worst part of captivity was, he responded that it wasn't the beatings.

"The worst was the constant, just the constant deterioration of everything. The constant pain from my body falling apart. The constant screams from my mind," he said, haltingly. "It was the years of waiting to see whether or not the next time someone opens the door if that would be the person coming to execute you."

Bergdahl said he still has nightmares that make it hard to sleep more than five hours. He checks his door at least three times to make sure it's secure each night and sleeps with a flashlight nearby.

He wakes up sometimes not remembering that he's back in the U.S., he said, and has daytime flashbacks to captivity arising from unpredictable triggers.

"It could be anything: A smell, perfume, damp earth, garbage," he said.

The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by President Barack Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Because Bergdahl's words in court were an unsworn statement, prosecutors won't be given the chance to cross-examine him.

His dramatic words came after an eventful morning in which the judge ruled that President Donald Trump's scathing criticism Bergdahl won't prevent the soldier from receiving a fair sentence.

Then-Republican nominee Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor on the campaign trial and suggested that he be shot or thrown from a plane without a parachute. Trump revived those comments when Bergdahl pleaded guilty on Oct. 16 by saying at a news conference that he thinks people are aware of what he said before.

Nance did say he would keep Trump's comments in mind as he weighs other factors that will go into his sentencing decision. The hearing is expected to last several more days.

Following Nance's ruling, prosecutors called their final witness, Shannon Allen, to discuss a traumatic brain injury suffered by her husband when he was shot in the head during a search mission for Bergdahl. National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen was on a mission to gather information in two villages in July 2009 when his unit was ambushed by insurgents using small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The soldier is unable to speak, uses a wheelchair and needs help with everyday tasks, his wife testified.

Shannon Allen's voice faltered when she referred to the brain injury's effect on his interactions with their daughter, who was an infant when he was wounded. She is now 9 and Mark Allen is in his mid-30s.

"He's not able to reach out for her or talk to her," she said, tearing up and pausing to take a deep breath. "He's never had the chance to really play with her or help coach her sports or ask about her day."


The Living Force
The Afghan security forces foiled a plot by the anti-government armed militant groups to carry out a deadly bombing inside a mosque in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Deadly Mosque Bombing Foiled in Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan

The provincial government media office in a statement said the security forces discovered two mortar rounds placed inside the mosque which is located in the 3rd police district of the city, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added that the mortar rounds were discovered and defused without any incident by the operatives of the Afghan intelligence.

According to the provincial government, the mortar rounds would cause massive casualties to the prayer participants had the militants manage to detonate them.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the reports so far.

In the meantime, the provincial government said the intelligence operatives also discovered and defused an improvised explosive device from the Rodat district of Nangarhar.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the anti-government armed militants have increased their insurgency activities in some districts of the province during the recent years.

However, the Afghan security forces are busy conducting counter-terrorism operations against the ISIL and other insurgent groups in this province.

The increased raids by the Afghan forces and their allies followed rampant activities by the ISIL and other groups to expand their insurgency in this key Eastern province.

Taliban militants killed 22 Afghan policemen in separate attacks on checkpoints over the weekend in the latest blow to the country's security forces.

Taliban Kill 22 Afghan Police in Multiple Attacks

Militants wearing the googles launched a pre-dawn assault on a police post in Khan Abad district in the Northern province of Kunduz on Sunday and killed 13 officers, provincial police chief Abdul Hamid Hamidi said, Channel News Asia reported. Only one policeman survived the attack, he added.

The attackers destroyed the checkpoint and stole a Humvee, according to district governor Hayatullah Amiri.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters killed nine policemen and wounded two others stationed at checkpoints in Ghazni, the capital of the Southeastern province of the same name, provincial governor's spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori said, adding that twelve of the militants were killed and four wounded.

The Taliban claimed the attacks in statements to media.

The militants have warned that there will be no letup in their attacks until foreign forces fully withdraw from Afghanistan, which is still suffering from insecurity and violence years after the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The invasion removed the Taliban from power, but militancy continues to this day. Taking advantage of the chaos, Daesh has also emerged in Afghanistan.


The Living Force
A US service member was killed in Afghanistan as American forces step up operations against the Taliban, the US military said.

US Serviceman Killed in Afghanistan

A statement from US Forces Afghanistan Command in Kabul said the service member had died of wounds sustained during operations in Logar, the Eastern province where another service member was killed last week after a helicopter crash, the Australian reported.

"Despite this tragic event, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the Afghan people and to support them in our mutual fight against terrorism," General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan said in the statement.

The latest death comes after the US President Donald Trump ordered a boost in the number of US troops assisting Afghan forces against the Taliban as part of a new strategy ostensibly to try to break the stalemate with the insurgents.


The Living Force
Translator note: Part of our international net is that Die Lage [The Situation] comes in our email every morning from Der Spiegel. The Lage consists of a very few -- a select few -- short items in one paragraph. Today's is remarkable:

What should NATO do in Afghanistan? Disappear -- Der Spiegel

"As this seems to be a day of the bad mood, one more look at the NATO meeting that begins today: Among other things, the troops in Afghanistan are to be increased from 13,000 to 16,000 men. What is that supposed to accomplish? One less reversal? What a terrible zig-zag: from the increase to the announced reduction to the recent increase. If anything can be achieved in Afghanistan, then only with a huge commitment. Since NATO is not ready for that, it should acknowledge defeat and disappear from Afghanistan."

NATO will increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg revealed.

NATO to increase troop presence in Afghanistan

The announcement was made during a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers that will occur later this week.

"We have decided to increase the number of troops ... to help the Afghans break the stalemate," the NATO chief told reporters.

Stoltenberg claimed that NATO leaders will agree to increase the training mission by at least 3,000 troops, bringing the total number of NATO soldiers to 16,000.

The UN mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday said it has credible evidence that civilians were killed in a US air raid in Northern Kunduz province last week.

UN Confirms Civilian Casualties in US Airstrike in Afghanistan

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) noted in a series of tweets that its initial findings and credible reports proved that at least 10 civilians got killed in Kunduz on Nov. 4, Anadolu reported.

“Accounts indicate victims were civilians forced by AGEs (Anti-government elements) to retrieve bodies from earlier fighting… UN interviews’ with multiple survivors, medics, elders and others give strong reason to believe civilians among victims,” it stated.

On Tuesday, the United States Forces - Afghanistan categorically rejected any civilian casualties in the restive province’s Chahar Dara district.

“United States Forces – Afghanistan has investigated allegations of civilian casualties in Kunduz province during the period of November 3 and 4; no evidence of civilian casualties has been found,” the statement issued by the American forces said.

“We can confirm operations occurred in this area and numerous enemy combatants were killed, as also confirmed by Kunduz Governor Omarkhail and Ministry of Defense Spokesman Major General Dawlat Waziri,” it added.

Meanwhile, a number of local officials contacted by Anadolu Agency claimed the Taliban militants had forced the locals to collect bodies of their fighters from a site of US drone strike, and when the civilians reached the spot, another strike took place killing a number of civilians.

Khosh Mohammad, a Kunduz provincial assembly member, informed the agency that at least 14 civilians were killed in an airstrike by the US troops.

The UN Mission has noted in its assessment of the situation that the UNAMA provides authoritative and impartial reports of conflict’s impact on civilians in Afghanistan.

There is an evident surge in US airstrikes following the announcement of the new war strategy by President Donald Trump.

The US Forces in Afghanistan carried out up to 751 airstrikes in the month of September alone, according to a US Air Forces Central Command report.

The Afghan security forces repulsed a coordinated attack by the Taliban insurgents on a police academy in Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan.

Coordinated Taliban Attack Repulsed on Afghan Police Academy in Maidan Wardak

According to the local officials, the Taliban insurgents launched a coordinated attack on the police academy in Syedabad district, Khaama Press reported.

Provincial governor Zondi Gul Zamani confirmed the incident and said several insurgents including suicide bombers attempted to storm the police academy in Dasht-e-Top area.

He said the Afghan forces repulsed the attack, inflicting heavy casualties to the assailants.

In the meantime, the security officials are saying that 15 Taliban insurgents including some suicide bombers were killed during the clashes.

The officials are saying that the security forces did not suffer any casualties.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Maidan Wardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in central parts of the country, located close to capital Kabul.

At least seven militants affiliated with the ISIL terrorist group’s offshoot, ISIL Khorasan, were killed in the latest airstrikes in Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

7 ISIL Militants Killed in Latest Airstrikes in East of Afghanistan

According to the local officials, the airstrikes were carried out in the past 24 hours in the vicinity of Achin district, Khaama Press reported.

The provincial police commandment in a statement said the airstikes targeted the ISIL hideouts in three different parts of the district, leaving at least seven militants dead.

The statement further added that the militants were targeted in Abdul Khel, Sara Ghondi, and Malkand areas.

The provincial police commandment also added that the airstrikes did not incur casualties to the local residents and security personnel. The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the report so far.


The Living Force
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, 10 civilians have been killed.

Moscow Calls for Probe Into US Bombing in Afghanistan's Kunduz

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called on the Afghan authorities, as well as international human rights organizations, to investigate thoroughly and impartially the circumstances of the US bombing on November 3 in the Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan.

According to the ministry, "US aircraft bombed several settlements, resulting in the death of at least 10 civilians of that country, more than 20 other people were injured."

"We strongly urge the Afghan authorities and international human rights organizations to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of all the circumstances of what happened in Chahar Darah district, to hold responsible those guilty and to take effective measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents."

New US Afghan Strategy - The bombing follows August's announcement by US President Donald Trump to introduce a new US strategy in its 16-year-long war in Afghanistan. Changes provided in the strategy included lifting restrictions on the US forces to attack the Taliban (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia) and other militant formations in Afghanistan which had been previously imposed by the administration of ex-US President Barack Obama.

Most recently, NATO has also announced that the number of troops in its Resolute Support mission would be boosted from about 13,000 to roughly 16,000. According to Jens Stoltenberg, the mission will not "go back to combat operations," and the additional troops will enhance NATO’s training and assistance functions in cooperation with the Afghan forces.


The Living Force
Four US service members taking part in Operation Resolute Support were injured on Monday in the result of the detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

Four US Service Members Injured by Explosion in Afghanistan

Four US service members participating in Operation Resolute Support were injured on Monday when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Operation Resolute Support Public Affairs Director Capt. Tom Gresback told Sputnik in an email.

"I can confirm reports that a vehicle-born improvised explosive device detonated in Kandahar province at approximately 2 p.m. today," Gresback said.
"There were a total of four US service members injured and all are in stable condition in US medical treatment facilities."

Gresback added that no service members were killed in the explosion.


The Living Force
The chief investigator of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has asked for judicial permission to launch an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, the ICC said.

International Criminal Court to investigate CIA black sites in Afghanistan

According to an ICC statement, the investigation will look into crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003, as well as any crimes linked the conflict that took place outside it since July 1, 2002. The parties under investigation will be the Taliban and another powerful Islamist group, the Haqqani Network, both of which also operate in Pakistan, as well as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), in particular, members of the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

The situation in Afghanistan has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since 2006,” the statement said. “After a comprehensive and careful scrutiny of the information available to the office, applying the applicable Rome Statute legal criteria, the prosecutor has determined that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation of the situation in Afghanistan.”

The investigation will also examine war crimes and human rights violations committed by the United States and its allies, with an additional focus on the Central Intelligence Agency and its role in operating secret detention facilities, so-called “black sites,” on the territory of Afghanistan and other allied countries.

These black sites were used by the CIA to hold and question suspected terrorists after September 11, often making use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” which has been criticized as being a euphemism for torture.

Among the techniques used was waterboarding, where a cloth is placed over the prisoner’s face and water is poured on top, creating the feeling of drowning. Other enhanced interrogation techniques included stress positions, sleep deprivation and humiliation.

The CIA’s black sites were in Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Thailand and Afghanistan. The agency’s current deputy director, Gina Haspel, ran such a facility in Thailand nicknamed the “Cat’s Eye,” and later reportedly participated in the destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees at the prison she ran, as well as at other secret compounds.

The ICC has been criticized for what’s perceived to be huge overspending and poor efficiency. Despite having an annual operating budget of €145 million ($170 million), the court has only managed to score four convictions, all of them African war criminals, leading to complaints of an anti-African bias. It has also issued arrest warrants for other suspects, including Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Liberation Army, a Christian terrorist group in Uganda, but they have yet to appear in court to face justice. The court has no jurisdiction over the US, since Washington backed out of ratifying the Rome Statute in 2002. Russia cut its ties with the ICC last year following a decree by President Vladimir Putin.


The Living Force
Afghan Forces Thwart Militants Plot to Target Kabul with BM-1 Rocket

Officials in Criminal Investigation Department in Kabul said the security forces discovered and defused a BM-1 rocket before the militants to target the city with it, Khaama Press reported.

The officials further added that the rocket was prepared and ready to be fired when the security forces discovered it from Sang-e-Nawesht area of Kabul.

This comes as the Afghan intelligence operatives foiled a coordinated attack plan by the notorious Haqqani terrorist network in Kabul city.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a statement said the Afghan forces discovered a cache of mines, explosives, and weapons prepared by the terror network for the attack.

The statement further added that the cache was discovered from the vicinity of the 7th police district of the city which included ten magnetic bombs, a suicide bombing vest, mobile phones, and weapons.

The explosives and mines were destroyed on the spot, NDS said, adding that the Haqqani network was looking to use the explosives for coordinated attacks in the city.

At least fifteen militants affiliated with the ISIL terrorist group offshoot, ISIL Khorasan, were beheaded by their own comrades in Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Fifteen ISIL Terrorists Beheaded by Own Comrades in East of Afghanistan

According to the local officials, the incident took place recently in the restive Achin district, Khaama press reported.

The provincial government media office in a statement the incident took place in Surkhab Bazar area of Mamand Dara in Achin.

The statement further added that the ISIL fighters beheaded their 15 comrades after an infighting erupted among them due to unknown reasons.

According to the provincial government, the beheading of the fifteen men has resulted into a major crack among the ISIL ranks in this province and there are fears more violence and infighting among the group.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces however the Taliban and ISIL militants have increased their insurgency activities in some its remote parts during the recent years.

Numerous incidents of infighting have been reported from this province among the Taliban and ISIL militants but this is the first time an infighting has been reported among the own ranks of ISIL.


The Living Force
At least fourteen militants affiliated with the ISIL terrorist group were killed in an airstrike conducted in Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Senior ISIL Leaders among 14 Dead Terrorists in Nangarhar Airstrike

The provincial government media office issued a statement on Saturday afternoon and said the airstrike was carried out in the vicinity of Achin district, Khaama press reported on Sunday.

The statement further added that the target of the airstrike apparently was senior ISIL leaders who were killed in the airstrike.

The militants were targeted in the vicinity of Margha area of Mamand Dara of Achin district, the statement said, adding that the two ISIL leaders killed in the raid have been identified as Asadullah Orakzai and Shakirullah Kunari.

The anti-government militant groups including the ISIL have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces however the Taliban and ISIL militants have increased their insurgency activities in some its remote parts during the recent years.


The Living Force
The US Defense Department sought to prevent the publication of an independent study highlighting child sexual abuse crimes among Afghan soldiers and police officers, Stars and Stripes reported Sunday.

Pentagon Sought to Obstruct Publication of Afghan Child Sex Report (Video) (RT 27:02 min.)

Congress initially requested a review of potential crimes by Afghan security personnel in 2015. The study, carried out by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), has been sent to lawmakers but remains classified. It is only despite the machinations of the US military that Congress is seeing the report at all: the Defense Department attempted to block the report from going anywhere, the military newspaper said.

"It's fair to say there was an effort to discourage the investigation," a US Senate staffer told Stripes. The Pentagon has denied the allegations.

Afghan security officials have a reputation for recruiting young boys into their ranks, sometimes for the purposes of fornication, the New York Times reported in September 2015.

US troops have been explicitly ordered not to tell superiors about pedophiles among the police and army ranks who were abusing children, according to the Times. "The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights," said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who punched a US-backed paramilitary commander who kept a boy chained to his bed.
We were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than what the Taliban did," the veteran said.

The Army removed Quinn from Afghanistan after the beating, since he had disobeyed the policy to ignore child abuse. He later resigned.

"At night we can hear them [the boys] screaming, but we're not allowed to do anything about it," Gregory Buckler Sr. said his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, Jr. told him during their last conversation before the Marine was killed in 2012. "My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it's their culture."

Under the Leahy laws, foreign security force members are ineligible to receive US aid when they are found to have committed gross human rights violations.

Bacha bazi is a form of pederasty that has roots in Central Asia, where boys are forced to dress up as women and dance in front of older men. In some cases, the practice has been tied to prostitution and child sex trafficking.


The Living Force
Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, said "well over 1,000" advisers would be closer to the front lines during next year's fighting season in Afghanistan.

US to Deploy Over 1,000 Additional Troops to Afghanistan in 2018

A large increase in US forces patrolling with Afghan counterparts will push the Taliban back in 2018, the top general said, cautioning that they would "absolutely" be at extra risk, Daily Mail reported.

General John Nicholson, who commands US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said "well over 1,000" advisors would be out conducting combat operations on the front lines during next year's fighting season. They will embed at the "kandak" level, an Afghan term meaning in battalions typically of 300-400 men.

Smaller numbers of US troops have already been conducting such work this year, but their ranks would "increase dramatically," Nicholson said.

"There will be greater risk. Absolutely," he said, noting that they will be backed by a full array of air support and surveillance capabilities.

The move comes as part of President Donald Trump's strategy for Afghanistan and broader region, which he announced in August and that has already seen a sharp uptick in air strikes and an additional 3,000 or so troops flow in.

The strategy includes relations with Pakistan, which Trump has angrily accused Islamabad of harboring "agents of chaos." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also has said too many militants are finding sanctuary there.

While acknowledging that Pakistanis have "been engaged in a very tough fight against extremism inside their own country," Nicholson said he had not seen any significant changes from Islamabad.

Members of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network still hide out on the Pakistan side of the Durand Line separating it from Afghanistan, he added.

"The expectations are out there. We have not seen those changes implemented yet and we are hoping to work together with the Pakistanis going forward to eliminate terrorists who are crossing the Durand Line," Nicholson said.

Like other commanders before him, Nicholson offered an upbeat view of the 16-year-old war, insisting that the fight had "turned the corner" and predicting that the Afghan security forces will expand government control of the population from about 64 percent now to 80 percent over two years.


The Living Force
The Taliban insurgents have executed their own leader over alleged links with the ISIL terrorist group in Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Taliban Execute Own leader in Nangarhar after ISIL Mass Beheading

According to the local officials, the incident took place recently in the vicinity of Shirzad district, home to several Taliban militants, Khaama press reported.

The officials further added that the Taliban group leader killed by his own fighters has been identified Mawlavi Shukoor. The provincial government media office in a statement also confirmed that Taliban insurgents covered with masks executed their leader over alleged ties with the ISII group in Shirzad district.

The statement further added that the Taliban leader was killed in Karki Khel area of the of Shirzad.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as at least fifteen militants affiliated with the ISIL terrorist group offshoot, ISIL Khorasan, were beheaded by their own comrades in this province last week.

According to the local officials, the incident took place recently in the restive Achin district.

The provincial government media office in a statement the incident took place in Surkhab Bazar area of Mamand Dara in Achin.

The news about the wars the U.S. is waging all over the world is unreliable. The same statements of progress are repeated year after year. The official numbers, be they of civilian casualties or deployed troops, are mere lies. Every news presentation should be engraved with a warning: “Assertions and numbers are not what they appear.” Consider, for example, the various “turned corner” statements officials have made about Afghanistan.

Turning the Corner in Afghanistan 28 November 2017

On October 5 2017 the the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed to the BBC that Afghanistan has “turned the corner”:

… when I ask whether he is saying Afghan forces have turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban, there is no hesitation: “Yes,” he says

On October 24 the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson agreed with President Ghani:

“With the mounting military, diplomatic, and social pressure that is building – that we all are collectively committed to sustaining over the coming years – the enemy will have no choice but to reconcile. I believe, as President Ghani says, ‘we have turned the corner,’” he concluded.

But a month later General Nicholson seemed to disagreed with his earlier statement:

“We are still in a stalemate,” Nicholson, a four-star Army general said in an exclusive interview.

Today, five days after his “stalemate” statement, the general’s opinion has changed again. Kevin Baron, the editor of Defense One, reports:

‏JUST IN: Top US general in Afghanistan says war has “turned a corner… “ The momentum is now with the Afghan security forces.” …

The General seems confused. But he is not the first to have such a change of mind.

On February 3 2010 then U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal was cautious about the proverbial corner:

General Stanley McChrystal also expressed confidence that Afghan forces would grow quickly enough to allow a reduction in U.S. troop numbers to begin on schedule in 2011. … I‘m not prepared to say we have turned the corner,” he added.

Only twelve days later the turn had been made:

Gen Stanley McChrystal had his own words. Helmand had “turned the corner” in its four year war, he told The Daily Telegraph.

In May 2011 a British General also noted the turn:

The civilians are looking to people such as General James Bucknall, a British Coldstream Guards officer who is second in command of the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf).

[H]e sets out why he thinks a corner has now been turned, nodding to the surge in American troop numbers that has made it possible.

Six years earlier another British General had already seen that turn:

Handing over to 3 Commando Brigade, Brig Butler said: “When we prepared, we knew there would be rocky times ahead, and that things would get harder before they got easier. That has certainly been the case, but I judge we have turned the corner. We have achieved a huge amount.”

In May 2011 the U.S. Secretary of Defense was more cautious than the generals but nonetheless optimistic:

I think we could be in a position by the end of this year where we have turned the corner in Afghanistan,” [U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates] said.

According to is boss, progress came faster than Gates anticipated. On June 23 2011 CBS headlined Obama: U.S. has turned corner in Afghanistan:

President Barack Obama on Thursday told American troops who’ve fought in Afghanistan that the U.S. has turned a corner after nearly 10 years of war, and it’s time for their comrades still in that country to start coming home.

Obama’s victory jump may have been a bit premature, but a month later the local commander agreed that the turning process had at least begun:

I spoke to Gen Petraeus as he stopped off in London on his way home from Afghanistan. In the interview, he spelled out what makes him think the country has begun to turn a corner after nearly 10 years of war.

In September 2012 another U.S. Secretary of Defense asserted that the turn had finally been completed:

[US Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta, however, has rejected suggestions that the strategy is failing, and on Friday he said “we have turned the corner,” in Afghanistan …

Four month later the Afghan President confirmed the turn:

[President] Karzai also said that Afghanistan has turned the corner in terms of battling the Taliban.

Karzai was very modest in acknowledging the turn. He knew that it had already happened much earlier:

On October 9th, 2004, Afghanistan turned the corner After decades of invasion, civil war, and anarchy, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically-elected President of a united Afghanistan.

In May 2014 another man was elected President of Afghanistan. This finally turned the corner:

Tonight there is a sense that the country has turned a corner – a new president who will sign the BSA, a continuation of developmental aid and training programs, and Afghanistan has more than a fighting chance.

A year later the Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani was encouraged by the corner turning progress the new government had made:

With the successful conclusion of the security and political transitions, Afghanistan turned the corner in our path to becoming a self-reliant nation.

Today, two and a half years later, General Nicholson is still in the corner turning business.

The corner turning in Afghanistan is similar to an earlier war the U.S. had fought in vain:

Of course, the Afghanistan War (ostensibly part of a Global War on Terrorism) differs from the Vietnam War (ostensibly part of the Cold War) in myriad ways. Yet it resembles Vietnam in three crucial respects. First, it drags on with no end in sight. Second, no evidence exists to suggest that mere persistence will produce a positive outcome. Third, those charged with managing the war have long since run out of ideas about how to turn things around.

Another similarity is the constant lying by the military spokespersons. The famous Five o’clock Follies of Vietnam have been replaced by video conferences and drone videos but the central issue is the same. The military is consistently and consciously lying to the public.

How many U.S. troops are there in Afghanistan? By law the Pentagon has to release the deployment numbers every three month. The latest release for September 2017 lists 15,298 soldiers and 1,202 DoD civilians in Afghanistan. But there are 29,092 soldiers listed in “unknown locations”. The generals must have lost these somewhere. The report also lists nearly 2,000 soldiers in Syrian and nearly 9,000 in Iraq. The publicly admitted numbers are way lower. They are as trustworthy as all the “turned corner” claims. Indeed:

The Defense Department’s publicly disclosed data, which tracks U.S. personnel levels in dozens of countries, are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting of troops deployed to any particular region,” said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon clearly states that official data and assertions are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting”. It is a warning. Whatever officials claim about this or that war, about “turned corners”, or casualties, or troop deployments, must be considered to be a lie until it has been confirmed by observation or additional sources.


The Living Force
The Afghan government plans to increase the size of the Afghan Special Forces by two times while the size of the Afghan Air Force will be tripled in coming years, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said.

Afghanistan to Double Special Forces, Triple Air Forces Size

“I am doubling the size of my Special Security Forces and tripling the size of the Air Force to defeat the terrorists and further secure the population,” Ghani said, Khaama press reported.

President Ghani further added, “Today, Afghan Commandos conduct four out of every operations independently from US and NATO support.”

“We Afghans own the fight and have turned the corner. Our special forces – the Kitah Khas and Commandos – have never lost a battle – they are becoming one of the best special forces in the region,” he added.

In regards to the ongoing fight against ISIL loyalists, President Ghani said, ”ISIL failed in building a base for their so-called caliphate in Afghanistan. ISIL is on the run – in Southern Nangarhar, Achin, Kunar, and Tora Bora – ISIL terrorists are being killed and cleared from Afghanistan.”

According to President Ghani, in the last year, the Afghan forces conducted over 1,500 combined ground operations and 300 air strikes against them, killing 3 emirs, over 2,500 fighters, and capturing over 200 ISIL fighters.

He also added that the group is isolated from external support. They are running out of weapons, supplies, and fighters – what’s left of ISIL is stuck in the mountains to starve and die.

The top commander was involved in "insurgency activities against government forces."

Taliban's Senior Commander Killed in Northern Afghanistan - Reports

One of the top commanders of the Taliban terrorist group (banned in Russia) was killed in the fight with Afghanistan's security forces in the country's north, the Tolo news broadcaster reported.

According to the media outlet, a group of militants headed by Mullah Shafiq tried to attack security outposts on the Shebrghan-Mazar highway in the Jawzjan province.

"Mullah Shafiq was involved in insurgency activities against government forces in the Faizabad district of the province and he was trying to destabilize the district," spokesman for provincial governor Mohammad Reza Ghafoori said, as quoted by the broadcaster. No further details have been made available so far.

A local leader of the Taliban group was critically wounded in an explosion in Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, the local officials said.

Local Taliban Leader Critically Wounded in Explosion in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province

The provincial government media office in a statement said the incident took place in Khogyani district of Nangarhar amid ongoing tensions among the Taliban ranks in this province, Khaama Press reported.

However, the statement said the explosion on local Taliban leader Hejratullah Afrid took place as he was busy making an improvised explosive device. The statement further added that Afrid has sustained critical injuries in the explosion.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far which takes place amid rampant violence in this province, mainly due to the Taliban and ISIL-led insurgencies and militants infighting.


FOTCM Member
The relationship between Afghanistan and Russia was discussed at the beginning of this thread and I've just come across the below interesting article on Sott:

Cleaning up another American mess: Afghanistan wants Russian expertise in restoring infrastructure:

Emerging from years of war and internal strife, Afghanistan looks at Russia to help rebuild the country's ravaged economy.

Russian companies' vast experience in building major dams and other infrastructure facilities in Afghanistan makes them an ideal choice for continuing their work in the country, a senior Afghan Energy and Water Ministry official told Sputnik.

Earlier this year, President Ashraf Ghani said that Russia could help rebuild the country's war-ravaged hydroelectric stations and other facilities.

"Companies from Iran, Turkey and America are also interested in doing this, bur Russian companies have better chances because, on the one hand, they have a great deal of experience in building several big dams here. On the other hand, they are very well aware of our geographic conditions because our countries are close neighbors," Asaf Ghafuri told Sputnik Dari.

He added that the Energy Ministry controls the companies' work and each time any serious problems arise they are referred to the National Committee for Procurements. As far as Russian companies go, the ministry is fully satisfied by their work.

"Minor problems, which occasionally pop up, are settled through bilateral talks. Thus far we haven't had any serious problems that could force us to stop working with Russian firms," Ghafuri noted.

Apart from their work to put the Naghlu Hydro back online, Russian companies have also landed contracts to build a 4.5 megawatt station in Ghor Province and another one in Paktiya Province which has remained mothballed for three years.

Last month Russia's Inter RAO - Engineering Company completed the installation of spare parts at the first unit of Naghlu Hydro and will move on to pre-commissioning procedures shortly.

The 100 megawatt Naghlu Dam, located 40 kilometers from Kabul, is one of the biggest in Afghanistan and is the main supplier of electricity to the capital.

Built more than 50 years ago by Soviet specialists, the Naghlu Dam, just like many other infrastructure facilities in Afghanistan, has seriously suffered from years of war and turmoil.


The Living Force
French fighters appear with Daesh in Afghanistan Sunday 10 December 2017

French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, have joined the ranks of the Daesh in northern Afghanistan where the militants have established new bases, multiple international and Afghan sources have told AFP.

It is the first time that the presence of French Daesh fighters has been recorded in Afghanistan, and comes as analysts suggested foreigners may be heading for the war-torn country after being driven from Syria and Iraq.

It is also a troubling sign as France, which has faced the worst of the Daesh-inspired violence in Europe since 2015, debates how to handle hundreds of its citizens who went to fight for the group in the Middle East.

“A number” of Algerian and French nationals entered the largely Daesh-controlled district of Darzab in northern Jowzjan province in November, said district governor Baaz Mohammad Dawar.

At least two women were among the arrivals, who were traveling with a translator from Tajikistan as well as Chechens and Uzbeks, Dawar added.
European and Afghan security sources in Kabul confirmed Dawar’s claim that French citizens were among the fighters — though, one cautioned, “we do not know how many there are.”

Three of the Algerians seen in Darzab are believed to have been in Syria and Iraq, Dawar said, suggesting they may link Daesh-Khorasan Province (known as IS-K), the group’s franchise in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the main group in the Middle East.

When it first emerged in 2015, IS-K overran large parts of eastern Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, though initially its part in the Afghan conflict was overshadowed by the Taliban. The jihadists have since spread north, including in Jowzjan on the border with Uzbekistan, and carried out multiple devastating attacks in the capital Kabul.

Mohammad Raza Ghafoori, the Jowzjan provincial governor’s spokesman, said French-speaking Caucasian men and women had been seen training IS fighters in Darzab. He cited reports saying that around 50 children, some as young as 10, have also been recruited by the fighters.

Darzab residents told AFP that roughly 200 foreigners had set up camp just a few hundred meters (yards) from the village of Bibi Mariam.
One local man who gave his name as Hajji said the fighters were of several nationalities, including French, and were tall, aged in their late 20s, and dressed in military clothing.

“They ride their (motor) bikes, go to the border and come back, but they talk to nobody,” he said. Hashar, a former district village chief, said some were training others to use suicide bombs and lay mines. “They are... bringing misery to normal people,” he told AFP, as other villagers said many residents had fled the area.

Locals along with district governor Dawar warned the fighters were also exploiting natural resources, such as precious stones and metals. One of the security sources said that two of the French had been nicknamed “The Engineers” and appeared to be organizing some sort of extraction, “but we do not know what they are looking for.”

Several European services believe the fighters are arriving through Tajikistan, the source said, adding that at least one Frenchman arrested there in July said he had wanted to join Daesh in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has long attracted foreign fighters, from the mujahedeen during the 1980s war against Soviet invaders to Al-Qaeda’s later use of the country as a haven.

The Pentagon has said Daesh numbers fewer than 1,000 in Afghanistan. But the growing presence of foreign fighters among them indicates that IS “seeks to create an external operations node for new waves of global attacks,” warned analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War recently.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups, said he did not think the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan meant that IS was necessarily “shifting its base.”

The group’s “natural home is Iraq and Syria, but I presume many of the foreigners in particular are taking the opportunity either to escape entirely or moving to other battlefields for IS where they might prove more useful,” he told AFP.

The head of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has vowed the group will be “annihilated,” and Washington notoriously dropped the so-called “Mother Of All Bombs” on an IS stronghold in Nangarhar in April.

But as the number of fighters grows in Darzab, the villager Hajji told AFP there were no signs of pro-government forces in the district.

“There is no government here,” he said.

Multiple international and Afghan sources said French and Algerian ISIL forces, some arriving from Syria, have joined the ranks of the ISIL group in Northern Afghanistan where the militants have established new bases.

French Fighters Appear with ISIL in Afghanistan

It is the first time that the presence of French ISIL fighters has been recorded in Afghanistan, and comes as analysts suggested foreigners may be heading for the war-torn country after being driven from Syria and Iraq, Economic Times reported.

It is also a troubling sign as France, which has faced the worst of the ISIL-inspired violence in Europe since 2015, debates how to handle hundreds of its citizens who went to fight for the group in the Middle East.

"A number" of Algerian and French nationals entered the largely ISIL-controlled district of Darzab in Northern Jowzjan province in November, district governor Baaz Mohammad Dawar said

At least two women were among the arrivals, who were travelling with a translator from Tajikistan as well as Chechens and Uzbeks, Dawar added.

European and Afghan security sources in Kabul confirmed Dawar's claim that French citizens were among them though, one cautioned, "we do not know how many there are".
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