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CENTCOM Nominee Admits Afghan Military Would Collapse If US Left
Afghanistan’s security forces are taking unsustainable casualties and would collapse if all U.S. troops withdrew, the nominee to lead U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday.
Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told lawmakers that both the U.S. military and Taliban are “in a stalemate,” and that happened to be the most optimistic part of his description of the security situation.
Since 2015, nearly 29,000 Afghan troops and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier this month.
The most important issue facing Afghan security forces right now is improving how they recruit and train the combat forces, McKenzie said during his confirmation hearing.
“Their losses have been very high,” McKenzie said. “They’re fighting hard but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem. I know it has Gen. [Austin] Miller’s direct attention and, if confirmed, it would be something that I would like to work with him on as a matter of great importance.”
While Afghan security forces have shown improvement, they are still too weak to stand on their own, McKenzie said.
On Tuesday, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) asked McKenzie how much longer it would take until Afghan troops and police could secure their country without the assistance of thousands of U.S. troops.
“They’re not there yet,” McKenzie replied. “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. 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.”
When Peters asked what the U.S. military is doing differently now compared to the past 17 years, McKenzie said he understood the lawmaker’s frustration, adding that both he and his son have each deployed to Afghanistan twice.
Right now, Afghan troops and police are shouldering the majority of the burden in the fight against the Taliban, he said.
“Americans are still at risk,” McKenzie said. “As we saw tragically last week, Americans are still going to go into harm’s way and some of them may die. But we are no longer doing the fighting. They are doing the fighting — they’re doing it imperfectly, but they are doing it with our assistance. That is actually a new thing.”
One lawmaker posed an existential question on Tuesday when Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked McKenzie what the United States should say to the families of Americans and Afghans killed in 2018.
“Sir, what we are doing is we are protecting the homeland of United States from being attacked – that’s what you say to the Americans, and that’s a clear, visible tangible effort that you can honor them for,” McKenzie replied.
“For the Afghans who have died, it’s an attempt to come to a long, peaceful political settlement in their country. I think that too is an honorable goal. I think Afghans and Americans who have died in action in Afghanistan have all been pursuing an honorable and reasonable objective.”
Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.