Tag: Afghanistan

Remains of U.S. Paratrooper Found in Afghanistan


The remains of a U.S. paratrooper reported missing since early this month in western Afghanistan were recovered yesterday, military officials said.

The body of Army Sgt. Brandon Islip was recovered from the Bala Murgahab River in Badghis province after a local Afghan resident provided information on his whereabouts, officials said.

Islip, a paratrooper with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, went missing with another paratrooper Nov. 4 after being swept away by a fast-moving current while on an airdrop re-supply mission in western Afghanistan.

The recovery comes weeks after British divers found the body of Islip’s fellow soldier, Spc. Benjamin Sherman, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Read more here.

Senate report: Bin Laden was ‘Within Our Grasp’ in December 2001

From the Associated Press:

Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden’s escape laid the foundation for today’s reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.

Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman,Sen. John Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate has long argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get the al-Qaida leader and top deputies when they were holed up in the forbidding mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan only three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Although limited to a review of military operations eight years old, the report could also be read as a cautionary note for those resisting an increased troop presence there now.

More pointedly, it seeks to affix a measure of blame for the state of the war today on military leaders underformer president George W. Bush, specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and his top military commander, Tommy Franks.

Here’s to what might have been.

And so it goes.

Obama Digs In Heels on Afghanistan

From the New York Times:

President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux.

The White House said Mr. Obama had completed his consultations with his war council on Monday night and would formally announce his decision in a national address in the next week, probably on Tuesday.

At a news conference in the East Room with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Mr. Obama suggested that his approach would break from the policies he had inherited from the Bush administration and said that the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.

“After eight years — some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done — it is my intention to finish the job,” he said.

He said that he would outline his Afghanistan strategy after Thanksgiving, adding, “I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.”

Mr. Obama was silent on what "finish the job" entailed, nor did he offer any details on what benchmarks he and his advisers had drawn up. He also did not provide a target date for finishing the war.

According to the Washington Post, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Democrats face "serious unrest" over possible expansion of the war in Afghanistan:

Pelosi, in a conference call with economists, said House Democrats were concerned about the "opportunity costs" of steering billions of dollars toward the troop increase as compared to "our ability to invest domestically with an eye to fiscal soundness." The issue of financing new troops in the region has come to a head in advance of Obama’s decision, to be announced next week, as a handful of senior Democrats have proposed a "war tax" on the nation’s wealthiest wage earners and some corporations to finance the war.

Pelosi deflected questions about her support for such a tax-hike proposal but noted that an expensive new war plan faces very high hurdles in her 258-member Democratic caucus, about two-thirds of whom were largely opposed to the Bush administration’s 2007 "surge" of troops into Iraq and have voiced doubts about increased troop levels in Afghanistan.

"Let me say that there is serious unrest in our caucus about, can we afford this war?" Pelosi said in a Tuesday morning call, just hours before she met Obama in a closed-door meeting at the White House.

With an economy struggling to recover, the bottom line is crucial here. Are Americans ready to sacrifice more than they already have? Would Americans support a "war tax," even if it was only on the "wealthiest wage earners," while Congress works to stitch together a health care reform bill?

I Admit I Wept When I Saw the President Welcoming the Fallen at Dover

President Obama welcomes the Fallen from Afghanistan.

I admit, I wept openly when I saw this picture.

I didn’t realize policy forbidding the media from photographing our Fallen coming home has been in place since President George H.W. Bush.

Even President Bill Clinton did not attend this solemn ceremony. President Clinton did not attend a funeral of a fallen warrior. Neither did President George W. Bush — although President Bush did meet privately with family members of the Fallen. To his credit. And I thank him for that.

President Abraham Lincoln had a home across from a cemetary during the Civil War. At times, he saw 30 fresh graves dug a day.

From The Swamp:

President Obama traveled overnight to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans killed in military service this week, the height of the bloodiest month for the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan.

In an unannounced trip in the middle of the night, the president went to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware by Marine helicopter to be present for the arrival of the bodies of the fallen troops.

The solemn visit was the first of its kind for Obama, and comes as he is withdrawing troops from Iraq but contemplating a troop increase in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, Obama spoke to sailors and aviators at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida, where he promised that he would count the full cost of war before deciding to send more military into harm’s way.

“Obviously it was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day — not only our troops, but their families as well,” Obama said later today, at the White House. “And so Michelle and I are constantly mindful of those sacrifices.

“And obviously the burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts,” said Obama, deliberating over the way forward in Afghanistan. “It is something that I think about each and every day.”

The administration this year lifted a longstanding ban on media coverage of the return of fallen service members. Obama was accompanied by a small pool of White House reporters who were on duty overnight.

Of course this visit was appropriate. I found it incredibly moving just seeing the President of the United States saluting while one of our fallen hero’s is brought home to rest.

No, President GWB did not do this. Neither did Bill Clinton, unless someone can recall otherwise.

We waited a long time to see this.

Regardless of his or her policies, the President of the United States stands as a symbol.  He represents the United States of America.  And it is entirely appropriate that he stand at attention, periodically, when our Fallen are brought home.

Our Fallen deserve this honor.

I hope he does it again. He needs to keep in touch with the fact that each casualty is a real fallen human being, with a real family. George W. Bush may have met with families privately — and I respect him for that — but some surrounding him in his administration were often glib when asked about the fallen soldiers.

The president needs to do this to keep in touch. And we need to see it happen.

McChrystal is not Obama’s Grant

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal was promoted to top commander in Afghanistan in May, 2009. He replaced General David McKiernan, who had been calling for big troop increases in the months before he was relieved. McChrystal has been calling for troop increases as well, taking his campaign public in recent weeks.

After complaining to the media that he did not have enough access to the president, McChrystal had a personal 25-minute summit aboard Air Force One with the Commander in Chief last week:

President Obama squeezed a 25-minute council of war into his Copenhagen visit yesterday, meeting General Stanley McChrystal aboard Air Force One before returning to Washington.

The general was summoned to the airborne White House on the day it was announced that four more British and American servicemen had died in Afghanistan. He was on his way back to Kabul from London, where he made a powerful public pitch for more troops to be sent to the battlefields.

Until yesterday, General McChrystal had been in direct contact with Mr Obama only twice since taking up his post as Nato commander in Kabul six months ago – once via video link to the Oval Office and then as a participant in a major Afghan strategy meeting on Wednesday, again via videolink.

Since arriving in Kabul, General McChrystal has written a damning assessment of the Afghan security situation, and an election marred by widespread fraud has undermined the case for propping up the regime of President Hamid Karzai.

The runway summit happened after McChrystal gave a speech in London pointedly criticizing the president and United States policy in Afghanistan:

When asked on CNN about the commander’s public lobbying for more troops, Gen Jim Jones, national security adviser, said:

“Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views.”

An adviser to the administration said: “People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to “Chaos-istan”.

When asked whether he would support it, he said: “The short answer is: No.”

He went on to say: “Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support.”;

President Abraham Lincoln fired no less than five generals before he “found his Grant,” as T. Harry Williams wrote in Lincoln and His Generals:

Yet Lincoln and His Generals does show, clearly and readably, why Lincoln had to fire one general after another: 1) McDowell, who was routed at Bull Run; 2) McClellan, who, in Lincoln’s phrase, was afflicted with “the slows”; 3) Burnside, equivocal in the field and, by his own admission, lacking the confidence of his own officers; 4) Hooker, who disliked his unearned nickname, “Fighting Joe,” and hesitated when he should have moved; 5) Meade, who let Lee get away after Gettysburg.

(Citation is from Time Magazine review)

Donald T. Phillips explores this further in Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times.

President Obama is still seeking his General Grant for Afghanistan. McChrystal spouting off one-liners in public speeches is less than appropriate for a person of his stature.

President Obama must keep searching for his Grant. Our troops and the American people deserve no less.

As Afghanistan Enters Year 9, We Tally the Cost of War

It’s time to take stock of the numbers again, as the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year Tuesday.

Our National Debt stands at $11,930,445,364,162.68 as of this writing. That’s a tad under $12 trillion.

The Total Cost of War since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began is currently $917,149,614,395. That’s just under $1 trillion. $688,690,605,993 has been spent in Iraq, $228,459,269,025 in Afghanistan. If the numbers don’t add up, that’s because the counter at CostofWar.com is constantly moving. The total right now is $917,150,203,805.

Yes, they’re pretty accurate. Here’s more about the counters:

The numbers indicate all of the approved funding for the wars to date. In addition to this approved amount, the FY2010 budget shows a $130 billion request for more war spending. This would bring total war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to more than $1 trillion. When all FY2010 war-related amounts are approved, we will adjust the counters so that they reach the new totals at the end of FY2010.

If you should compare the amount displayed on the Cost of War counters with the numbers available in our information sheets, please note that the information sheets include all war spending to date, the same number that the counters will reach at the end of the 2009 fiscal year.

Total War Funding since 2001

To date, $915.1 billion dollars have been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. Likewise, counters found here for states and towns will also reach their portion of this number at the end of FY2009.

Cost of War in Iraq since 2003

To date, $687 billion dollars have been allocated to the war in Iraq since 2003. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. Please note that the cost of war in Iraq has decreased since our last estimate. This is because a larger proportion of spending was allocated to Afghanistan than originally estimated.

Cost of War in Afghanistan since 2001

To date, $228 billion dollars have been allocated to the war in Afghanistan since 2001. This counter is designed so that on September 30, 2009, the end of the federal government’s 2009 fiscal year, the counter will reach that total number. To learn more about the cost of war in Afghanistan, see our April 2009 publication.

Here’s the Cost of War in Iraq:

Here’s the Cost of War in Afghanistan:

Here is the total of both wars combined:

Now, the human loss…

4,347 Americans have died in Iraq since the war began on March 19, 2003. 3,475 of them died in combat.

869 Americans have died in Afghanistan. 219 from the UK died in Afghanistan, 356 from other countries, for a total of 1,444 dead on the coalition side.

Somewhere between 93,345 and 101,862 Iraqi civilians have died in the war in Iraq. That’s civilians. Just Foreign Policy puts the total number of civilians due to the war at 1,339,771.

The Washington Post currently lists 5,130 Americans dead in both wars, and has pictures of all of the fallen.

President Obama, these are your wars now.