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Military Generals Weigh in on Afghanistan and Taliban

At a Congressional hearing today, there was criticism of Joe Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Among the comments: Fear-Mongering:

Gen. Milley: "We must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with Al-Qaeda...A reconstituted Al-Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility."


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Taliban Announces New Government

The Taliban named its new Government leaders today. Not surprisingly, this is no "Taliban 2.0". Religious minorities and women were excluded from the leadership positions. Its public announcement proclaimed:

"...in the future, all matters of governance and life in Afghanistan will be regulated by the laws of the Holy Shariah.”

Just as in the Taliban administration of the 1990s, almost all top members of the new government are ethnic Pashtun, with one deputy prime minister slot going to an Uzbek, a Tajik commander from the northeastern Badakhshan province becoming chief of army staff, and another Tajik taking over the ministry of economy. The Shiite Hazara community, whose representatives held important positions during the republic and which accounts for more than a fifth of the nation’s population, was excluded altogether.


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Despite $8.7 Billion Spent on Afghan Drug War, More Drugs Than Ever

SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, released a report yesterday on the state of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The report is over 200 pages and large segments of it address the failure of our drug strategy there, the lack of a revised counter-narcotics plan, and the increased participation of the U.S. in Afghan bombing efforts.

The United States has appropriated $8.7 billion for counternarcotics efforts since 2002, but more Afghan land was under opium-poppy cultivation in 2017 than ever before. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, cultivation levels increased 63% from the previous year to 328,000 hectares. Potential opium production levels increased 87% to 9,000 tons from 2016. Eradication levels also increased from the prior year’s results, but the 750 hectares eradicated barely registered against the cultivation figure.


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Back to Afghanistan

Update: I doubt I will watch Trump. I'd rather take a spin class on my Peloton. Please use this thread to comment on his speech.

From the Washington Post: Derek Chollet, an assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration, says:

“This is Trump’s war now,” Chollet said. “Putting 50 percent more troops in Afghanistan — that’s ownership. And it’s not something he can blame on his predecessor.”

Donald Trump will interrupt our TV schedules tonight to give a speech to the American public about his decision on how the U.S. should move forward on Afghanistan and South Asia.He's going to announce an increase in U.S. troops in this unwinnable war. [More...]

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Taliban Leader Writes Donald Trump

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, aka the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has written an open letter to Donald Trump. It was published today on Twitter, and released to journalists.

Here is the English version (I'm not sure how long it will remain up, so if you're interested, read it soon.)

He makes some good points as to why we should get out of Afghanistan for once and for all. Not surprisingly for a man of supreme incompetence and an extraordinarily limited vocabulary, Trump sent the opposite message to U.S. troops in Afghanistan today: [More...]

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Pre-Thanksgiving Open Thread

Are any of you cooking tomorrow? I am -- and I have lots to finish up today.

I plan to have a totally Trump-free holiday. I'm sure I'll binge watch something, I'm just not sure what yet. And check out the Black Friday online sales.

Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

Wishing you all a happy pre-Holiday eve.

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War in Afghanistan Turns 15 Years Old

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan. It began on October 7, 2001, four weeks after the 9/11 attacks, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. It supposedly ended in 2014.

It sounds like it just changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom Sentinel. In 2015, more than 10,000 U.S. troops were active in Operation Freedom Sentinel. Today, U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, visited Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, the largest Afghan province and met with elder tribe leaders. He told them the U.S. would not let the Taliban win. [More...]

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Friday Open Thread

Donald Trump has all the delegates he needs. Bernie Sanders does not. But Bernie's trying to stay relevant by debating Donald Trump. Yes, some polls have Hillary and Bernie in a dead heat in California. Others have Hillary with a wide lead. Others say there's a backlash against Bernie brewing.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Death of Mullah Muhammed Omar Confirmed

Taliban leader Mullah Muhammed Omar is dead. According to Afghanistan, he died two years ago in a Pakistani hospital.

As the supreme religious figure in Afghanistan, he commanded allegiance from all Taliban and foreign fighters, including Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda.

He had not been seen in public since 2001 and it was long rumored he was dead.

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Banner Year for Afghan Poppies

It will be a banner year for poppy growers in Afghanistan, largely due to a new kind of seed.

The new poppy seeds allow farmers to almost double the output from each plant, said Helmand's provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail. At harvest, collectors cut the bulb of the plant, allowing the raw opium to ooze out. This resin dries and is collected the following day.

Malakhail said the new seeds grow bulbs that are bigger than usual and can be scored twice within a few days, thus doubling the quantity of raw opium. The plants mature in three to four months, rather than the five months of the previous seed variety, allowing farmers to crop three times a year instead of just twice.

Drug officials blame the Taliban. Farmers blame the Afghan government which doesn't provide irrigation and power, both of which would allow them to grow other crops. [More...]

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Taliban Video of Prisoner Bergdahl Turnover

The Taliban released this video of the transfer of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. forces.

The full video is 11 minutes long, with the message "Don[sic] Come Back to Afghanistan." The New York Times has more here.

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US Airstrike Kills 11 Afghani Children

A US airstrike in Afghanistan yesterday targeting a Taliban leader killed 11 children. Also yesterday, 6 Americans including a young female diplomat were killed in a suicide bombing:

The battle unfolded on Saturday, the same day that a total of six Americans, including three U.S. soldiers, died in violent attacks. In addition to the U.S. adviser killed during the operation in the east, two others — a female foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department and an employee with the U.S. Defense Department — died in a suicide bombing in southern Zabul province during a trip to donate books to Afghan students.

The war is in its 12th year, and this was one of the most violent weeks to date.

There are about 100,000 international troops currently in Afghanistan, including 66,000 from the United States. The U.S. troop total is scheduled to drop to about 32,000 by early next year.

More on the Americans killed here.

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