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Top US Commander In Afghanistan: We Won't Be Seeing A Military Victory
In the week before President Donald Trump's reported decision to abruptly withdraw 7,000 U.S. service members from Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander there all but admitted that the 17-year-old war there will not end with a military victory for the Pentagon.
"This fight will go until a political settlement," Army Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the Resolute Support mission there, told CNN when asked whether the Afghan campaign against the Taliban had reached a stalemate. "These are two sides that are fighting against one another, and neither one of them will achieve a military victory at this stage."
In the same interview, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass concurred with Miller's assessment, cautioning that U.S. and Afghan officials will face a complicated diplomatic situation given the Talian's aggressive rejection of the current administration in Kabul.
"We have an opportunity today that we didn't have six or 12 months ago to see if it's truly possible to achieve that political settlement," Bass told CNN. "We don't know if we're going to be successful. We have to see if the Taliban is interested in responding to the deep desire of the Afghanistan people for peace."
Bass isn't wrong: Kabul’s chief negotiator had met with the U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 18, just days before news of a potential Afghan withdrawal broke. During his own confirmation hearing in June, Miller stated that the "military component" of the Trump administration’s conditions-based strategy is only necessary "to provide space for political progress."
But with Trump's reported plans to potentially remove all U.S. forces from the country by the presidential election of 2020, the prospect of an especially conciliatory Taliban now seems like a laughable fantasy without a robust, U.S.-backed Afghan security force to keep up the pressure on militants.
Indeed, Miller attempted to build up the performance of the ANDSF in his conversation with CNN. "I like how the Afghan national security forces are performing," he said. "This is an Afghan fight. Resolute Support provides support, and we enable them, but make no mistake, the Afghans are in the lead."
That statement came just weeks after the nominee to lead U.S. Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, told lawmakers that the ANDSF would essentially collapse in the event of a U.S. military withdrawal.
“Their losses have been very high,” McKenzie told lawmakers at the time. “They’re fighting hard but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem."
In response to news of the potential withdrawal, the Afghan government said in a terse statement it "will not affect the security situation in any way."
Just days later, the Taliban killed 43 people at a government compound during a brazen daytime attack in the capital of Kabul.
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.