President Biden confirmed in remarks to the media this afternoon that US troops will be deploying to Eastern Europe in the ‘near term.’ The purpose of the deployment is to deter Russia from launching an invasion of Ukraine or any NATO nations in Eastern Europe. Biden was light on details of the pending deployments such as confirming what units will be moving or when. Nor was the status of US forces presently stationed in Europe mentioned, even in today’s pentagon press briefing, which isn’t surprising. Operational matters are rarely discussed openly when a crisis is happening. The units going on higher states of alert for possible deployment are the usual lineup of rapid deployment suspects; 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Divisions and other elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 4th Infantry Division (Mech) at Fort Carson, Colorado. The 4th’s parent command is III Corps, made up of heavy maneuver divisions.
3rd Brigade/82nd Airborne Division is likely to be the first unit to move. The 72 hour threshold the brigade required to pack up and be ready has passed. If it weren’t for the major nor’easter tracking up the east coast, the brigade might’ve been moving already. As it stand right now, Mother Nature has some say in the matter.
Author’s Note: Apologies for the very short update this evening. Spare time was at a premium today but I will make up for it tomorrow. For those readers in the Eastern US like myself, be safe this weekend with the storm approaching.—Mike
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promised today that Russia will take appropriate measures if the US and NATO response to its security demands are less than productive. “If we do not receive a constructive answer from the west on our security demands, Moscow will take appropriate measures,” Lavrov said in a statement. The US has said it will provide an official answer this week, though judging by the increasing tension in Europe, Washington appears to be deliberately dragging its feet. Russia’s demands center around two points; An end to NATO’s eastward expansion and a guarantee that Ukraine will never be offered membership in the alliance. Rolling back NATO influence in Eastern Europe and beyond has suddenly become the foundation of Russia’s foreign policy. The rapidly shifting position highlights the security dilemma Russia faces. Any action that is taken to increase its own security will invariably diminish the security of others and elicit a response. Moscow understands this, as well as the dangers that are attached to the security dilemma, which might explain the Russian government’s insistence on a point-by-point response to its security demands.
The United States has authorized its Baltic allies to send Stinger handheld surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. Their arrival will not seriously deter Russia from using airpower in any future military action though. This move is largely symbolic in nature given the role that the Stinger played in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation there in the 1980s. No timetable was given for how long it will be until the Stingers arrive in Ukraine, but some sources within the militaries of the Baltic States have indicated several weeks will be required.
Just under 10,000 troops in the US are on alert for movement to Eastern Europe. Most of these are paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. On Monday, the division’s 3rd Brigade was ordered to prepare for possible deployment within 72 hours. Although much has been made about the growing possibility of a US troop movement to Europe, it needs to be stated that the US does already have military forces stationed across Europe and these forces will be utilized to reinforce NATO’s Eastern Flank too.
There’s not much left to say. A book closes as America’s twenty year commitment to Afghanistan comes to an inglorious end. For men and women who spent time there in uniform or as government employees, this is moment is bitter. All of that treasure, material, and blood…..twenty years worth…..wasted.
Now begins a new book for the people of Afghanistan, their new leaders and the world. The ramifications of the American exit will be felt for some time. Yet it remains to be seen what form they will take, or what areas of the globe will feel the impact most directly. Thoughts to ponder today and into the near future.
President Joe Biden spoke publicly today about the situation in Afghanistan. Biden made remarks to the nation but took no questions from reporters. Instead, the president made a quick exit off the stage and then returned to Camp David. Biden returned to the White House as pressure was increasing on him to address events in Afghanistan. Biden laid blame for the swift collapse on a number of people and organizations, including the Afghan military. It was only a month ago when Biden assured Americans that Afghan troops were ready to take over for US forces. Biden went on to say he stood behind the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan but admitted his administration was surprised by the pace of the Taliban’s advance. The president also said he has made it clear that any attempt by the Taliban to disrupt evacuation operations at the airport will be met with force.
At Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, air operations resumed a short time ago. All flights were halted earlier in the day after hundreds of Afghans attempted to board departing flights that carried foreign nationals. The scene on the ramp dissolved into chaos and forced the suspension of flights while US troops moved in to control the crowd and make certain the airport grounds were secure afterward. The Biden administration has ordered an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to reinforce the units now there. These troops will come from the battalion of paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division that is now in Kuwait.
On the international front, Russia has let it be known that the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Taliban will depend on their actions now and in the coming weeks. Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov will meet with a representative of the Taliban Tuesday to discuss the security of the Russian diplomatic mission. China’s adopting a more open position by stating it is willing to develop ‘friendly relations’ with Afghanistan’s new leaders. “China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop … friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told journalists in Beijing earlier today.
Mazar-i-Sharif, the last government-held city in northern Afghanistan has been captured by Taliban fighters. The capture of Mazar, an anti-Taliban enclave for decades, was the latest catastrophe to befall the Afghan government. The Taliban now controls the majority of Afghanistan and is moving closer to the capital city of Kabul. The speed of the Taliban’s advance has been bolstered by the near-complete collapse of government military forces. The fact that Mazar fell practically without a fight only underscores the present condition of government military and security forces. Along with Mazar, two other smaller cities came under Taliban control today; Asadabad and Sharan. As of this evening the only major cities still being held by the government are Kabul and Jalalabad.
As conditions deteriorate for the Afghan government, Western nations are preparing to evacuate their embassy staffs and other nationals. The US is moving military forces into Kabul right now. There are 1,000+ troops on the ground at present, mostly US Marines. By late next week 3,000 Marines will be on the ground. This afternoon, the White House announced that it will be sending more troops to Afghanistan. A brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to the region in the coming days. One battalion from the brigade will fly into Kabul while the other two will stage in Kuwait and serve as reserve force. When all is said and done, US troop numbers are expected to peak at around 5,000.