The Army Won't Say If Afghan Forces Can Handle A US Withdrawal Yet

news
Operation Enduring Freedom Turns 17

If your words of the day today were "cautious optimism," you're in luck, because Army Col. Dave Zinn, who recently returned from Afghanistan, offered exactly that to reporters on Wednesday.


The Afghan security forces are "now in the lead," and October's parliamentary elections proved their resiliency, said Zinn, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who recently served as deputy commander of the Train, Advise, and Assist Command-South in Kandahar.

"The fact that in the face of Taliban threats to the Afghan people, that we observed long lines of Afghans standing in line waiting to vote and then casting their vote, tells me a couple of things," Zinn told reporters on Wednesday. "No. 1: The Afghan people have confidence in the Afghan security forces. And number two, that they see the elections as important for the future of their country."

He also said local leaders in southern Afghanistan told them, "The Afghan people are tired of the fighting, and yearn for peace."

But with U.S. and Taliban negotiators taking tentative steps towards that peace during talks in Qatar this week, there's a larger question on everyone's mind: When will Afghanistan not need U.S. and coalition assistance anymore?

President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that peace negotiations with the Taliban "are proceeding well," possibly signaling that a full U.S. troop withdrawal could be near. Indeed, the Taliban claimed last week that foreign forces would vacate the country within 18 months under a draft peace agreement.

But just this December, the incoming head of U.S. Central Command told Congress that Afghan security forces would collapse if U.S. forces pulled out.

"If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country. I don't know how long it's going to take," Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing. "I think that one of the things that would actually provide the most damage to them would be if we put a time line on it and we said we were going out at a certain point in time."

"As we've seen when we precipitously withdrew from Iraq earlier, certain effects probably follow from that," he added.

Zinn couldn't speak to the larger strategic-level question of whether the Afghan government could stand on its own, but he did say the Afghan troops he mentored had gotten better during his time in country, although his assessment remained cautious.

"I would certainly hesitate to use the word 'dramatic' improvement," he said.

SEE ALSO: General McChrystal Told Pompeo To 'Muddle Along' In Afghanistan, Leaked Audio Reveals

WATCH NEXT: President Trump Attempts To Explain USSR-Afghanistan History

U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.

In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.

The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.

Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."

Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.

Read More Show Less
Todd Rosenberg/AP

A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.

The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.

Read More Show Less
Indiana National Guard

The Indiana National Guard soldier who was killed on Thursday in a training accident at Fort Hood has been identified as 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Andrew Michael St. John, of Greenwood, Indiana.

Read More Show Less

QUETTA, Pakistan/KABUL (Reuters) - The brother of the leader of the Afghan Taliban was among at least four people killed in a bomb blast at a mosque in Pakistan on Friday, two Taliban sources told Reuters, an attack that could affect efforts to end the Afghan war.

Read More Show Less