Ukraine Update 18 March, 2022 (Afternoon)

  • Great Britain’s Chief of Military Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull believes Russia is overhauling its battlefield strategy to one where attrition is the centerpiece. After a little over three weeks of hostilities, Russia has not achieved any of its major political or military objectives in the campaign. The lightning-fast war of maneuver that was prematurely envisioned by Russian general officers has fallen flat for a wide variety of reasons. Moscow is finally realizing the time has come to shift gears. A war of attrition will take advantage of Russia’s overwhelming superiority in artillery. Indirect artillery fire specifically. This will increase collateral damage to Ukrainian infrastructure and likely raise civilian casualties.
  • US President Joe Biden held a two-hour video call this morning with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before the call, the White House described the call as a component of “ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication” between the United States and China. After the meeting concluded, China’s foreign ministry said Xi emphasized “severe challenges” around the globe. China’s alignment with Russia is a major worry in light of the war in Ukraine and Biden probably broached the matter of Russia’s request for military aid from China during the call.
  • In spite of Russian claims, US Central Command has said there is little evidence of foreign fighters traveling from Syria to Ukraine. The comments from CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie on the topic came from a question on Russian efforts to recruit foreign fighters for the war. Earlier in March Syrian media reported Moscow was offering six-month contracts with pay ranging between $200 and $300 a month in a push to increase its force posture in Ukraine.
  • Lviv was struck by Russian cruise missiles again on Friday. The target was a military aircraft repair facility. According to the Ukrainian military, six Russian cruise missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea and four impacted buildings at the repair facility.

26 August Afghanistan Update: Kabul Suicide Bombings Kills 12 US Troops

12 US soldiers have been killed and at least 15 wounded in a pair of suicide attacks outside of the gate at Kabul Airport earlier today.  Eleven of the dead were US Marines and the twelfth one a US Navy corpsman. The attacks were labeled as ‘complex’ by the Pentagon and they would have had to be, considering they took place within a stone’s throw from the airport gate according to earlier reports. Early indications are leading US sources to believe the attack was conducted by ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State and rivals of the Taliban. There have been warnings over the past week that ISIS-K could pose a threat to the operations now underway at the airport. Although Kabul and much of Afghanistan have been overtaken by the Taliban, a vacuum continues to exist in many respects around the country. Security is one area in particular, as we’ve seen today.

Last week, President Biden said that his administration has made it clear to the Taliban that any attack on US forces at the airport in Kabul, or disruption of operations at the airport will be ‘met with a swift and forceful response.’ Right now, the world is waiting to see how the United States and its president respond.

Author’s Note: Looks like the updates are back now, for a little while at least.

Afghanistan Update: 9 PM (eastern Time) 15 August, 2021

It’s over. The collapse of the Afghan government is now complete. Ashraf Ghani is in exile, and the Taliban have almost complete control of Kabul. Afghanistan has been declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by its new Taliban leaders.  In an exclusive press conference given to al-Jazeera from the captured presidential palace, Taliban leaders explained that their main goal is to create an “open, inclusive Islamic government.” ISIS made similar claims in the early days of its rise and those words were empty of sincerity and meaning. Expect nothing more from these statements by Taliban leaders. Right now it’s about public relations with the group eager to obtain recognition for its new state. Unlike 1996, there will be a handful of nation-states that will be consider recognizing Afghanistan’s new government. China and Iran are the two most recognizable ones.

At Kabul’s airport, the evacuation continues on as additional US forces arrive and the security perimeter there is reinforced and expanded. The main concern at the moment appears to be securing the airport’s runways and facilities. Hundreds of Afghans have already attempted to rush the airfield. The security situation has deteriorated to the point that the Pentagon to double the number of troops assigned to the airport security operation from 3,000 to 6,000. There are also British troops in Kabul, contributing to the operation. Canada had promised to send a contingent of its own troops to Kabul to assist in evacuating the Canadian embassy staff, however I’m unaware if they’re on the ground now or not.

In the coming days and weeks there will be a lot of speculation about Afghanistan’s future and the effect the Afghan collapse will have on US interests in the region and around the world. It’s still to early to provide definitive answers, but the future doesn’t appear bright for the Afghan people under Taliban rule, to say the least. The same holds true for US foreign policy and the Biden administration. Try as he might, Joe Biden cannot deflect blame for this catastrophe onto his predecessor.

As for this blog, Afghan updates will continue for at least another day. Then we’ll move on to events in other parts of the world, and later in the week the North Korean Collapse project will resume.

Kandahar Falls

The Afghan government has been dealt a crippling blow in the last 24 hours with two major cities falling to the Taliban. Kandahar, the second largest city in the country, and Herat are now under the control of Taliban forces. Ghanzi, Laskar Gah, and Ghor have fallen as well. The United States, Great Britain and other Western nations are preparing to evacuate their embassies in Kabul. The number of US troops to be deployed will number 3,000. They have reportedly already started arriving in the Afghan capital and according to some reports this evening, US airstrikes against government military installations in Kandahar have been launched. The purpose of these strikes was to destroy government military facilities and deny use of equipment and weapons to the Taliban. If further strikes are launched, their purpose will likely be to slow the Taliban advance down and buy time for the US and its allies to complete the embassy evacuations.

The writing is on the wall now. Kabul will fall and the current government will be replaced by the Taliban in a matter of days. China has already stated it will recognize a Taliban government in the event Kabul is taken. There are reports coming out of the country now that the Afghan government has proposed a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban. If accurate, this can only be viewed as a plea of desperation in the eleventh hour. Which means the government in Kabul is keenly aware the end is in sight.

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and governments around the world prepare for the return of the Taliban to power, I think we might be discussing related subjects here through the weekend at least.

Iran Update 22 July, 2019: US Military Preparations Underway in the Gulf Region

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In light of the worsening situation in the Persian Gulf and other Middle Eastern waterways, United States efforts to build a multi-national naval force dedicated to the protection of oil tankers are ramping up. The Trump administration has approached a number of NATO allies as well as American allies in the Middle East. The creation of a naval force is the next logical step in the drama unfolding in the Persian Gulf. Iranian actions against oil tankers in the Gulf continue and Tehran shows no indications of easing anytime soon. Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercises and operations have become a regular part of the US Navy’s playbook and they will be used to one extent or another in and around the Strait of Hormuz.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) is preparing to reactivate Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. PSAB, as it is affectionately known to most folks who’ve been there was the predominant US air installation in the Middle East until 2003. In the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom operations at PSAB were transferred to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Since then, Al Udeid has been the main US airbase in the region.

Now US access to Al Udeid is no longer guaranteed. Qatar has been moving away from its traditional Gulf State allies since the Saudi-sponsored embargo, and towards Tehran in some ways. As a result, the Qataris could possibly place restrictions on US air operations at Al Udeid. Such restrictions would have an adverse effect on all US military operations in and around the Persian Gulf. Instead of running that risk, the US is preparing PSAB in case it is needed. And according to some sources at CENTCOM, Prince Sultan is slated to become the main hub of US air activity in the Middle East regardless of what happens with Al Udeid and the Qataris.