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Once Described As On Its ‘Back Foot,’ Taliban Number Around 60,000, General Says
The U.S. military and Afghan security forces face roughly 60,000 Taliban fighters, the Marine three-star general who has been nominated to lead U.S. Central Command told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. initially testified during his confirmation hearing that the Taliban have about 20,000 fighters, but he later said he had misspoke.
“I’d like to correct an earlier remark,” McKenzie told U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I noted the size of the Taliban in Afghanistan as being 20,000. I believe we’d actually say it’s around 60,000 vice that earlier number.”
Neither Hirono nor the other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee asked McKenzie if the Taliban is growing in strength.
Currently, about 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan, along with roughly 8,165 troops from other countries, and approximately 312,328 Afghan troops and police, officials said.
The U.S. military command for operations in Afghanistan declined to say how many fighters it believes the Taliban currently have, said Army Maj. Bariki Mallya, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support.
“Our estimates of the number of Taliban fighters have remained stable over time,” said fellow Resolute Support spokesman Army Col. David Butler. “We are less concerned about numbers and pay more attention to capability and trajectory. The Afghan security forces are working to stay on the offensive against the Taliban and set the conditions for a political settlement.”
But 17 years into the Afghanistan war, the Taliban is actually much larger than the U.S. military admits, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, D.C.
“The Taliban’s strength is likely to number well over 100,000 fighters,” Roggio wrote in a Nov. 26 article for the Long War Journal, which he edits. “US military and intelligence officials who track the Taliban agree. One official told LWJ that the Taliban likely has more than 70,000 fighters and tens of thousands of support personnel and supporters.
Another said that the Taliban “could not possibly do what it has done with merely 40,000 fighters; double or more realistically triple that number, and you are closer to the truth.”
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.