The Rendon Group Snapshot Report – 08 February 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on February 15, 2016

The Rendon Group

 

(15FEB16)

 

Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.

 

Afghanistan: Internal, External Restructuring Highlight Ongoing Security Challenges

This week’s snapshot focuses on developments in Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on 29JAN published a quarterly report highlighting the “fragile and worsening” condition of the economy and security climate in the country. On 28JAN, Lt. General John Nicholson Jr., President Barack Obama’s choice to become the new commander of US forces in Afghanistan, agreed with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who described the security situation in Afghanistan as “deteriorating.” Meanwhile, the Afghan army stretched the recruitment age, the Quarilateral Coordination Group (QCG) is set to meet with the Taliban as early as this month, and  Afghanistan chief executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah paid a visit to New Delhi to assure Indian leaders that they’re kept in the loop as the prospective talks draw closer.

 

News summary of events during the week of 01FEB – 07FEB

 

  • 01FEB: A suicide bomber killed at least nine and wounded 12 in an attack on a police base in Kabul. (AP)
  • 02FEB: Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee outgoing commander Army Gen. John F. Campbell said most of the problems facing Afghan security forces stem from poor leadership and Afghan troops will not be able to secure their own country until at least 2024. (AP, The Diplomat, Reuters)
  • 02FEB: US airstrikes destroyed an Islamic State-operated radio station in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan, while media outlets also reported airstikes on Pakistani Taliban in Eastern Afghanistan. (AP, The Long War Journal)
  • 02FEB: In a message tweeted on @khilafatvoice, an account apparently affiliated with ISIS in eastern Afghanistan, the group said, “Dear audiences! Voice of the Caliphate radio has been slightly damaged in an air strike conducted by Infidel troops. God willing, it will soon go on the air again.”
  • 04FEB: The Afghan army, struggling to defeat a resilient Taliban, began enlisting men as old as 40 to replenish a force thinned by casualties, defections and attrition. (Washington Post)
  • 04FEB: During a visit to New Delhi, Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said India has been kept in the loop on “each and every development” in the Taliban reconciliation process. (The Hindu)
  • 04FEB: Gen. Campbell continued his testimony on the Situation in Afghanistan before the Senate Committee on Armed Services. (Senate Committee on Armed Services; Opening remarks begin at 13:30 in video)
  • 04FEB: Lt. Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson will be the new commander of US forces in Afghanistan following a quick confirmation vote in the Senate. (Stars and Stripes)
  • 05FEB: The Pentagon released 198 photos that were taken as part of an investigation into allegations of abuse or mistreatment of detainees held by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009. (AP)
  • 06FEB: Four-nation talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 15-year war concluded with a call for direct negotiations between the government and the Taliban by the end of February. (AP)
  • 07FEB: Afghanistan expects to hold direct talks with the Taliban by the end of this month, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mostaghani told reporters. (AP)
  • 08FEB: By month’s end, hundreds of additional US troops are slated to deploy to Helmand province to bolster the local military against a resurgent Taliban. (Guardian)

 

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about developments in Afghanistan

 

  • @euamiri – Ehsanullah Amiri, Wall Street Journal reporter
  • @FMamundzay – Farid Mamundzay, Former Afghan Deputy Minister of Policy at The Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG)
  • @MASalangi – General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, Senior Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs
  • @realZalmayMK – Zalmay Khalilzad, Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, & the UN, President of Gryphon Partners LLC
  • @ARG_AFG – President Ashraf Ghani, Official Account of the Office of the President of Afghanistan

 

 

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding developments in Afghanistan

 

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings

“And so the question is whether we, the United States, are prepared to stand by with Afghanistan for that long and whether the Afghans will have the resolve. So it’s really important that the military and the police fight as hard as they can, because the weaker they fight, the more they defect, the more intimidated they are, the more brain drain that flows from Afghanistan, the stronger the Taliban is viewed and the more intransigent they will be in the negotiations. Now the negotiations will be very much about the military battlefield as much as they will about what’s happening at the table for a long time.”

  • ‘”They are riding a tiger that they cannot control”: Pakistan and the future of Afghanistan,’ Brookings, 27JAN16

Christopher Paul, Senior Social Scientist, Professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School and Colin P. Clarke, Associate Political Scientist at RAND

“One possible benefit of a growing Islamic State presence could be a warming of relations between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, which would have a shared interest in preventing the group from gaining a foothold in the region. This rapprochement was initially spurred by the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014, after which the Pakistani government reevaluated its stance toward certain militant groups operating on its soil.”

  • ‘Counterinsurgency Scorecard Update: Afghanistan in Early 2015 Relative to Insurgencies Since World War II,’ RAND, 29JAN16

 

Zubair Iqbal, scholar-in-residence, Middle East Institute

“Embezzlement and bribery have become institutionalized — more than in the past — partly because of the huge amount of funding and the weak management.”

  • ‘Afghanistan is on the brink after US invests $100 billion,’ CNBC, 03FEB16

 

Marvin Weinbaum, scholar-in-residence, Middle East Institute

“Without the international community’s willingness to continue to invest in the nonmilitary, there is no Afghan economy, and some argue no Afghan security.”

  • ‘Afghanistan is on the brink after US invests $100 billion,’ CNBC, 03FEB16

 

Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS

“It is striking that aside from one now-dated German map, the only meaningful metrics on the fighting come from the maps provided by the Institute for the Study of War and the United Nations, and the only meaningful trend data on the scale and intensity of the fighting consist of the UN casualty data.”

  • ‘Afghanistan a Year After “Transition”: Losing the War at Every Level,’ CSIS, 22DEC15

 

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to developments in Afghanistan

 

1. Taliban suicide bomber kills 20 police outside Kabul base

 

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 01 February 2016

 

Kabul, Feb 1, 2016 (AFP) – At least 20 policemen were killed Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber struck a police base in Kabul Monday, just days before a fresh round of international talks aimed at reviving dialogue with the Islamist group.

 

Scores of people were also wounded as the attacker blew himself up in a queue of police officers waiting to enter the base, leaving several bodies and charred debris strewn around the area.

 

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2. U.S. airstrikes kill 29 militants, destroy IS radio in Afghanistan

 

Media: Xinhua (China)

Byline: N/A

Date: 02 February 2016

 

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) — About 29 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed and a radio station belonging to the militant group was destroyed after U.S.-led coalition forces carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar overnight, sources said on Tuesday.

 

“The foreign forces conducted four air raids against IS positions in Momand Dara locality of Achin district Monday night, killing 29 IS militants and destroying an IS radio station,” the provincial government said in a statement.

 

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3. General says poor leadership is biggest problem for Afghans

 

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 02 February 2016

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top American commander in Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday that most of the problems facing the Afghan security forces stem from poor leadership.

 

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. John F. Campbell said the Afghan National Army has replaced 92 general officers, including a high-level commander in volatile Helmand province.

 

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4. Stretched by its fight against Taliban, Afghan army raises recruitment age

 

Media: Washington Post

Byline: Tim Craig

Date: 04 February 2016

 

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan army, struggling to defeat a resilient Taliban, has begun enlisting men as old as 40 to replenish a force thinned by casualties, defections and attrition.

 

The decision to raise the age limit for recruits to 40 from 35 was quietly made last month in response to pressure from the U.S.-led coalition, said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, chief spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry.

 

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5. Afghanistan hopes to meet with Taliban this month

 

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 07 February 2016

 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan expects to hold direct talks with the Taliban by the end of this month, an official said Sunday.

 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mostaghani told reporters that Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States had agreed on a roadmap toward peace talks at a meeting in Islamabad the day before. He said the government hopes to “put an end to the futile violence which is imposed on our people.”

 

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