Afghan commando unit routed; Another warplane crashes; Threads of global disorder on display in Paris; India joins boomer club; And a bit more.
The U.S. might have a kinda big favor to ask of Afghanistan: can you guys hold off on deciding your next president? An electoral delay is “one of several” options that the Trump White House is weighing as a way to continue inching toward a peace settlement with the Afghan Taliban, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
What’s going on here: The White House and its military commanders seem to believe their war strategy is working — that is, it is pushing the Taliban to the peace table. So perhaps Afghanistan wouldn’t mind postponing its presidential elections slated for mid-April? The idea has reportedly been floated by U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad “in talks with various stakeholders and intermediaries.”
Quick work: Zalmay was appointed to his current gig in September, so he appears to be wasting little time trying to make some traction.
One big catch: The optics, since the U.S. military kind of invaded Afghanistan in part to install a democracy. Now it could be asking Afghanistan to hold off on that whole democracy part.
What does Kabul think? What do Afghans think? The latter remains unclear. But President Ashraf Ghani, who is eyeing a second five-year term, is reportedly intent on the April 20 election date. Said Ghani’s office to the Journal: “Continuity in a democratic process is a must, and any other proposal than the will of Afghans, which is outlined in our constitution, is simply not acceptable.”
Elsewhere: one story, two headlines (and neither one is good):
- Taliban routs commando company in one of Afghanistan’s most secure rural districts (Long War Journal)
- Taliban Slaughter Elite Afghan Troops, and a ‘Safe’ District Is Falling (New York Times)
Location: Jaghuri district in eastern Ghazni province. "Jaghuri’s population of 600,000 is predominantly Hazara and are opposed to the Taliban," LWJ's Bill Roggio writes. "The Taliban has isolated the remote district by cutting off roads, but refrained from attacking it. Until now."
The dirty details include 1,000 Taliban fighters converging on multiple districts in Ghazni just last week. Some 50 Afghan special forces arrived to assist — only to have 30 of them killed and another 10 wounded. Read the rest of Roggio’s take, here.
Or hear Roggio explain his views on the status and trajectory of the war in Afghanistan in our latest episode of our Defense One Radio podcast.
Extra reading: We have a few updated casualty estimates from America’s post-9/11 wars — which is to say the conflicts playing out across Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
The quick number: “All told, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the United States’ post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”
Authoring the report: Brown University's Neta Crawford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Co-Director of the Costs of War Project.
Not included: Syria.
The thinking behind these recurring updates: perhaps “greater transparency [will] lead to greater accountability and could lead to better policy.” Read the full analysis, with charts and illustrations, (PDF) here.
From Defense One
Trump’s Visit Highlights Threads of Increasing Global Disorder // Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic: France’s Macron, who had wooed the new U.S. president, now decries “the selfishness of countries that regard only their own interests.
Nukes, the New Congress, and the Lost Art of Political Compromise // Michael Krepon: In the past, arms controllers and deterrence boosters compromised on deals that ultimately reduced nuclear dangers. No more.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Today in 1942: the three-day Naval Battle of Guadalcanal began as Japanese troopships attempted to reinforce positions on the island. They were rebuffed, marking the beginning of the end of Japanese resistance on the island. If you find this stuff useful, consider sharing The D Brief with somebody you think might find it useful, too. And thanks for reading!
Finland: Russia is messing with our GPS. For several weeks now, Finnish authorities say, there’s been something wrong with the position-timing signals — and they blame Moscow. Newsweek: “On Tuesday, Finland’s air navigation services issued a warning to all air traffic that large-scale disruption to GPS services was affecting the north of the country. Norway sent out a similar warning for pilots at the end of October when the 2018 Trident Juncture operation began.”
IAEA: Iran’s still abiding by the nuclear deal. AP: “In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states and reviewed by The Associated Press, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has been abiding with key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.”
India has joined the boomer club, becoming the sixth nation to operate submarines armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The Indian Navy’s INS Arihant completed a month-long deterrent patrol earlier this month. The mission completes India’s nuclear triad—the ability to hurl nukes from ground, air, and sea.
Yet a single month-long mission does not a permanent naval deterrent make, as USNI News notes: “Only the U.S., U.K., France and Russia can sustain continuous-at-sea deterrent patrols, which a provides continuous launch capability of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by maintaining at least one SSBN on station at any one time that could fire a nuclear missile. A continuous patrol requires a minimum of four SSBNs.” Still, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi celebrated the moment.
MIT’s Vipin Narang noted the contrast with Modi's regional rival: “When China ran its first purported deterrent patrol with the Jin class SSBN it was shrouded in secrecy and it still has not publicly discussed it.”
China: our Air Force will be our Space Force. The service “intends to expand its presence into space as part of its plan to become a “world-class force,” the state-run media China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday, quoting Col. Wang Zhonghua, head of the Planning Bureau of the air force’s Equipment Department. Zhonghua said the branch “spares no efforts in handling all threats, and is gearing up to extend its reach beyond the clouds and into space.” That, plus a bit more, from Japan Times, here.
Two Navy aviators ejected safely on Monday after their F/A-18 suffered mechanical difficulties about 250 miles off Okinawa, Navy officials said. The aircraft, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard USS Ronald Reagan, was lost at sea.
ICYMI: “Warplane accidents have spiked nearly 40 percent since 2013, the year the mandated budget cuts known as sequestration took effect,” Military Times’ Tara Copp reported in April, having assembled a searchable database of mishaps through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests.
McCain’s legacy. Sen. John McCain loved the annual Halifax International Security Forum, to which he frequently led CODELs of colleagues young and old to get them involved and experienced in global policy circles. Past years included Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and military veterans such as Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. This weekend, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. are picking up McCain’s baton, leading an upper-house group that includes Sens. John Boozman, R-Ariz., Chris Coons, D-Del., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and, Roger Wicker, R-Miss. House members will be led by HASC intelligence committee member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio.
Four-stars: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will speak at Halifax in a rare on-camera, on-the-record appearance, but it's unclear whether he'll sit for an interview. INDOPAC's Adm. Philip Davidson also will appear. Two four-stars at one event is unusual these days: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has generally limited senior military and civilian leader appearances to one per event.
McCain prize. Cindy McCain, the late senator's widow, will present the inaugural John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service to an interesting group: the people of the island of Lesbos, Greece, for helping migrants and refugees risking their lives to flee across the Mediterranean into Europe.
And lastly today: A surfeit of admirals? “In 1944 there were 256 flags for 6,084 ships; today there are 359 flag officers for 280 ships.” That’s from this (paywalled) essay in USNI Proceedings (h/t Task & Purpose’s Tom Ricks).