Thursday, 23 February, 2017

Gen. John Nicholson Sees 'Stalemate' in Afghanistan

Russia-Pakistan joint military exercises Russian troops in Pakistan for joint military exercise Druzhba-2016 in September last
Darrell Mcdonald | 10 February, 2017, 02:11

Nicholson said the plan to send about 300 Marines back into Helmand on a training and advisory mission would help the struggling 215th Corps of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in regaining territory lost to the Taliban.

"Offensive capabilities [aviation and special forces] will break the stalemate", he told the panel. They conduct counterterrorism operations against Taliban insurgents and train the Afghan army.

According to a Defense Department statement issued December 19, the fiscal year 2017 budget amendment requests $264 million to procure 53 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and to begin to refurbish and modify some of them. "This is in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation train, advise and assist mission, so it can come from America or its allies".

The conflict in Afghanistan is its 16th year, making it America's longest war.

The general also said additional resources were needed to develop the Afghan air force and grow Afghan special forces.

"This investment that we are requesting in the Afghan Air Force will help them.to take over responsibility for their own close air support, and even more importantly, this then will lead to an offensive capability that allows them to overmatch the Taliban or any other group on the battlefield, anywhere around the country", Nicholson said. "Russian involvement this year has become more hard", he said.

"The rules of engagement I gained in June were instrumental to our successes here", Nicholson said.

In addition, "ghost soldiers" and "ghost police" are a continuing problem that Nicholson said is now being addressed.

Nicholson also acknowledged a stalemate in Afghanistan and that he has "a shortfall of a few thousand" soldiers.

Nicholson listed this as the second leading deficiency in the Afghan security forces.

He said Iran has begun recruiting Shiite Afghans from the the western half of the country for the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as the Afghan government battles a nascent ISIS presence at home.

"I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", he later added. "We need to do a holistic review of our Pakistan policy". The challenge, he testified, is made even tougher by Russian Federation and Iran's aid to the Taliban, amid signs the militant group is making territorial gains.

"They could come from our allies as well as the United States". Angus King, (I-Maine), called it a "petri dish" for terrorism.

Nicholson also blamed some US struggles in the country on Russian Federation, saying the Kremlin legitimized the Taliban by claiming it was fighting ISIS.

The Russians recently invited representatives from the Taliban, China, Pakistan and other countries in the region to Moscow for meetings about Afghanistan's future, but did not include officials from the Kabul government, Nicholson said.

Nicholson's remarks come as the new Trump administration is reviewing USA military strategy around the world.

In an interview with Russia's TASS news agency published on Thursday, a Russian foreign ministry official said Moscow would like to renew cooperative efforts with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Afghanistan.

"We believe our operations in Afghanistan directly protect the United States homeland", he said in answer to a question about the value of continuing the fight after 15 years. "Our objective is to destroy them".

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