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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.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?