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Mattis Says The Taliban Is On Its 'Back Foot,' And No, He Wasn't Making A Funny Joke
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the Taliban has been put on their "back foot," and before you start to laugh at that very funny joke, I have to tell you that it wasn't actually a joke.
Mattis said this in a non-sarcastic tone, without any hint of comedy.
While speaking with Pentagon reporters, Mattis lauded strikes against Taliban drug labs, but cautioned, "you can break them apart in terms of what organization they’re part of, but their goal is to destabilize the elected government."
Although I've come to expect rosy, and often ridiculous assessments from people like Gen. Joe Dunford and Pentagon flacks, Mattis has been more circumspect in talking about the nearly 17-year-old war.
In a June 2017 hearing on Capitol Hill, for example, Mattis told lawmakers, "We are not winning in Afghanistan. We will correct that." That was just 11 months ago, before a "new" strategy was implemented.
So what's changed?
The U.S. military has deployed more troops, carried out more air strikes, and has loosened rules of engagement. For all that effort, it has not changed the reality on the ground at all.
Let's take a look at the numbers: According to the Pentagon's own data, in Feb. 2017 the Afghan government controlled or influenced 60% of its 407 districts. It reported 29% of districts were contested, while 11% were under full control of the Taliban.
In Jan. 2018, it reported the Afghan government was in control or had influenced 56% of its districts. Meanwhile, the contested number remained the same at 29%, while Taliban control rose to 14%.
"The Taliban continue to maintain its grip on half of Afghanistan, despite US military’s reinvigorated effort to force the group from its strongholds," writes Long War Journal, which has been tracking who controls each district in Afghanistan since summer 2015.
"According to LWJ, the Afghan government controls 159 districts (39%), the Taliban controls 39 districts (9.5%), and 200 districts (49%) are contested. LWJ was not able to determine the status of 9 districts (2%).
Therefore, according to LWJ’s data, the Taliban controls or contests 239 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, or 59%."
Yeah. They're on their back foot.
It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.
It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.
"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.
ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.
That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.