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.
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.
Unrest in Haiti is creating a volatile situation for residents, and foreign nationals alike. The Haitian government’s plans to increase fuel prices led to major protests, demonstrations, and looting breaking out across the island late last week. Three people are confirmed dead, with scores more injured to varying degrees. The intensity, and violence embedded in the protests has only escalated over the weekend, to the point where the US embassy in Port au Price is recommending US citizens in Haiti shelter in place, and not attempt to reach the airport unless their flights are confirmed to be departing. Scores of flights have been cancelled and it doesn’t seem likely that the situation will change anytime soon.
The protests, and increasing unrest on the island is a difficult enough situation by itself. The presence of stranded US citizens, including church groups, and volunteers, only compounds the situation. The Haitian government is becoming less able to actively protect US citizens as the situation continues to deteriorate. This raises the possibility of a potential US military operation to evacuate US citizens from Haiti being launched in the near future. It would not be the first time US forces were used for such a purpose. US Marines are tailor-made for just such a contingency. Unfortunately, there is no Amphibious Ready Group currently at sea in the Caribbean or Western Atlantic. The USS Kearsarge ARG was in the region late last month performing workups for an upcoming deployment, but the LHD and accompanying ships are back in Norfolk right now. There are other options available to insert US forces into Haiti if the Trump administration decides that the move is necessary. Weather will play a major role in US options in the coming days. What remains of Tropical Storm Beryl is approaching the eastern Caribbean and could affect any rescue operations on or around Haiti.
On Saturday the Haitian government halted plans to raise fuel prices, but the move has yet to help improve the situation in the streets.
Today the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) activated Japan’s first marine unit since World War II. The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) has come into being to help Japan meet the evolving security situation in that part of the world. The troop strength of the brigade will be around 2,1000 troops, NCOs, and officers. It’s equipment will include V-22 Ospreys, and AAV7A1 amphibious landing vehicles. Although a brigade in name, the ARDB more closely resembles a US Marine Expeditionary Unit in size, organization and capabilities.
The main role of the marine unit will be to retake islands from an occupying force. In recent years Japan and China have seen a rise in tensions over Japanese islands at the edge of the East China Sea. As access to the Western Pacific becomes more of a priority for China, Japan is not taking the potential threat likely. Chinese military capabilities continue to increase and Japan is making strides in its own rearming process. The ARDB marks a significant increase in Tokyo’s ability to defend its most exposed territories.
Creation of the marine unit has brought controversy too. Amphibious and expeditionary forces have the capability to project power far beyond a home nation’s borders. Japan’s post-World War II constitution renounces the nation’s right to wage war. Japan’s neighbors could point to the creation of the ARDB as a provocation if they wanted.
In any case, Tokyo’s rearmament is moving at full speed ahead. The Japanese Self Defense Forces are loading for bear….or dragon, as the case may be.