Category Archives: Afghanistan

Now the Taliban faces an insurgency of its own

Although America’s longest war is over, the Taliban isn’t fully victorious in its now-liberated country. There are several groups still holding out against the resurgent regime. After all, it is a civil war there. 

Ahmad Massoud, 32, the well-spoken leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, is the son of the famed Soviet Afgha War-era mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001 while heading of the Northern Alliance. A graduate of Kings College and the University of London, the younger Massoud last week published an op-ed in the WaPo pleading for help.

I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban. We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come.

Of course, although he is asking for arms and support from the West, the likelihood of it coming overtly is slim to none.

However, it should be noted that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is is funded almost exclusively by the American government, is running short reports highlighting his struggle. 

 

At the same time, Amrullah Saleh, one of the old republic’s vice presidents and former Intelligence chief, is still in the country and, along with former Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi (one of the elder Massoud’s better commanders in the Northern Alliance against the Soviets and a former Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army), are in the Panjshir with Massoud The Younger, where they are trying to form a larger resistance movement in line with a government in exile concept.
 
At least some are coming to the call. 
 
Massoud is being joined by “Hundreds of Tajiks from the southern town of Kulob” who  “say they’re prepared to join anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan. The Afghan fighters are based in the Panjshir Valley, a predominantly ethnic-Tajik region that has repelled Taliban incursions in the past.”
 
 
Other reports are not quite as glossy as the Taliban move in to put down the unruly valley, just 100 miles from Kabul. 
 
 
Still, if Massoud and the gang can make it to the end of the fighting season, 2022 could be a big year for them. 
 
Meanwhile, there is an Uzbek angle.
 
Another vice president and warlord-figure, the aging Abdul Rashid Dostum (who was marshal of the Afghan National Army and a senior officer of the Communist-era ANA) along with Atta Muhammad Nur, a well-known Tajik who served as a mujahideen resistance commander for the Jamiat-e Islami militia against the Soviets before joining the Northern Alliance back in the day, fled from their stronghold in Mazar-e-Sharif to Uzbekistan a couple of weeks ago, where they no doubt still have a myriad of contacts across the border. Whether or not they make inroads back into the country remains to be seen but, as they say, you can run the warlord out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the warlord.
 
The more things change…
 
 

What a Difference 50 Days Makes

Well, this press conference didn’t age well at all, and in record time.

25 June 2021: “President Biden Welcomes His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to the White House”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not gloating.

This is a terrible situation, quite accurately the Fall of Saigon of our generation. A total kick in the nuts.

U.S. Embassy evacs: Saigon, April 1975, and Kabul, August 2021, respectively

I have friends and family that were part of the one million Americans who served– often several deployments– in uniform in the (now-old) Afghan Republic over the past two decades and I did contractor work. One of those friends I visit every year in the Biloxi Veteran’s Cemetery and would much rather he still be here to see his daughter grow up. 

This week stings quite a bit and I really felt like everyone saw it coming for the past several years.

The following is the text of a joint statement released by the Department of State and Department of Defense on Afghanistan, 15 August: 

Begin text:

At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights.  Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control. Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.

End text.

Brezhnev’s Big 7

U.S. Army Training Aid, GTA 30-3-23, September 1981, official caption: “A composite view of Soviet combat equipment known as the Big 7.’ Shown are: 1. A ZSU-23/4 armored anti-aircraft weapon, 2. A T-72 tank, 3. An SA-8 Gecko surface-to-air missile system mounted on a three-axle amphibious vehicle, 4. A Mi-24 HIND-D gunship with one nose machine gun and four anti-tank missiles, 5. A BMP amphibious armored infantry combat vehicle with a 73mm smoothbore gun and an anti-tank missile, 6. An M-1974 122mm self-propelled gun, 7. An M-1973 152mm self-propelled gun.”

DOD Graphic DAST8512646 via the National Archives

Commonly seen at the time in Red Square May Day parades and grainy intel photos from along the Iron Curtain and in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, these were all top of the line at the time the training aid was circulated and are still encountered around the world today, making this 40-year-old poster still kinda relevant. 

Germans Wheels Up from Afghanistan

The Bundeswehr has reported that the last of its troops have left Afghanistan after almost 20 years of service. Three A400Ms carried the final 264-member contingent, made up of Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) commandos and their support echelon, from Kabul to Wunstorf air force base, not far from Hanover, arriving at 13:52 (CEST) today.

(Foto: Bundeswehr / Torsten Kraatz)

They then cased their field flag until needed later.

Die Truppenfahne wird in das Einsatzführungskommando nach Schwielowsee überführt und dort aufbewahrt. (Foto: Bundeswehr / Torsten Kraatz)

The Bundestag passed the initial Afghanistan mandate on 22 December 2001 and, just three weeks later, German soldiers took part in a patrol in Kabul for the first time. Since then, around 150,000 German troops have cycled through the country, like Americans often serving multiple deployments.

Spähzug mit ihren Fenneks während eines Trainings auf der Ausbildungsanlage “IED-Lane” im Camp Marmal, Mazar-e Sharif am 18.05.2016. (Foto: Bundeswehr)

No less than 59 German soldiers were killed there, 35 of them in combat. These included the first German reservists and the first German policemen to die in deployments abroad since 1945.

Importantly, the Teutonic troops sent back 65,000 cans of beer from Afghanistan as part of their evac from the country.

Leave no bier behind.

Berlin is not out of the country building just yet. Earlier this week 12 German troops were wounded by a suicide bomber while serving with the MINUSMA mission in Mali.

Sweden Exits Afghanistan

One of Europe’s great modern neutrals, Sweden has managed to sit out open combat in most forms since 1814. I say most forms because, since the 1950s when a 200-bed field hospital was dispatched to help the UN forces in the Korean War, they have been very active in a myriad of overseas peacekeeping, “police actions,” and nation-building.

Now moving from the list of active missions to former deployments is Stockholm’s activities in Afghanistan.

Beginning with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001 and continuing with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the Swedes have been active in the war-torn country, reaching a high watermark in March 2006 when they took operational command in Mazar-e-Sharif, with responsibility for security in four provinces in northern Afghanistan, and had a battalion-sized force on the ground.

Since then, the primary Swedish base, Camp Northern Lights, was transferred to the Afghan government in 2014 when the Swedish contingent dropped down to about 50 advisors to the Afghan security forces. Even this final chapter came to a close as the Swedish flag was lowered in Kabul last month and a contingent of the Gota Engineers arrived back home on 25 May, escorted by a pair of JAS 39 Gripens.

“On Saturday 15 May, a historic flag ceremony was held in Kabul, in the presence of the head of the multi-national force, Resolute Support Mission, US General Scott Miller, and large parts of his staff. The Swedish flag was lowered at the mission headquarters, following nearly 20 years’ presence in Afghanistan.” Via Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters.

Over 10,000 Swedish personnel cycled through Afghanistan in the past two decades and the country invested more than SEK 7 billion in bilateral aid and humanitarian support. Five Swedish soldiers were killed in action and 24 were injured.

The Swedes aren’t out of the sandbox entirely, though, as a 70-strong force remains in Iraq as advisors to local forces there. In addition, smaller teams are spread out in 20 countries from the Korean DMZ to Mali, Yemen and in the Western Sahara.

“We won’t forget about Irregular Warfare, we promise”

The DOD last week made a big deal of putting out a 12-page summary of the “Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy.”

The IW Annex details that irregular warfare endures, even as the military pivots from two decades of counter-insurgency and nation (re)building to near-peer Great Power Competition, and that the Pentagon will keep IW skills sharp as “an enduring, economical contribution to America’s national security, and will remain an essential core competency of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

The paper goes on to detail that the American way of war in the past was to build COIN skills and asymmetric warfare assets when we needed it (see Seminole Wars, Plains Wars, Philippine pacification, Banana Wars, Vietnam, El Salvador/Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq), then put it aside and essentially throw away the manual when we didn’t need it on a daily basis any longer, requiring the military to start from scratch the next time. In each case, the lost muscle memory had to be regained with blood.

“In short, the IW Annex is a road map for deterrence and provides off-ramps for the U.S. in options short of kinetic warfare,” said a DOD official in firm language via a related press release.

No, really guys, we mean it this time

Sgt. Maj. Raymond Hendrick (left), Asymmetric Warfare Group Adviser, explains specifics of the blast radius of the man-portable line charge system during a training exercise just outside of Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. (U.S Army photo by Cpl. Alex Flynn)

And in pure DOD logic, the word also surfaced last week that the Army will be disbanding both the Asymmetric Warfare Group and the Rapid Equipping Force as it transitions from counterinsurgency operations to better concentrate on “multi-domain and large-scale combat operations.”

AWG, for those following along at home, was founded in 2006 to help the Army gain an edge in low-key COIN and hearts-and-minds type operations through learning lessons that could be applied quickly to simultaneously save Joes and ghost Tangos. Similarly, REF– formed in 2002 as the Desert Storm/38th Parallel-oriented Army was faced with a new war of movement against fast-moving groups of guys armed with nothing more advanced than AK47s, IEDs, and cell phones– was designed to get urgently needed capabilities such as UAV jammers and MRAPs into the field in 180 days or less.

Insert Benny Hill chase scene, here.

Point Stay Back

Canadian Army Sniper Arthur Godin of Le Régiment de la Chaudière (Mitrailleuses) taking aim from his hide in the interior of a building in Zutphen, Netherlands, on 7 April 1945, during the two-week fight for that city that only concluded on 12 April.

Godin is using an Enfield No. 4 Mk. I (T) sniper rifle with what looks to be a No. 32 3.5x scope, a combo that remained standard for marksmen in the British and Commonwealth forces into the 1960s when it was replaced by the L42A1, a rifle that was essentially the same thing but in 7.62 NATO rather than .303 and with better glass.

He is also using a tactic that was as valid in 1945 as it is today– keeping well away from an opening or loophole to hide his shape, muzzle flash, shadow, and optic reflection from enemy eyes.

Of course, Hollywood always wants to show the sniper hanging out of a window, framing themselves as an excellent target for counter-fire, because Hollywood. It is a sign of a rookie or someone playing at war.

For reference, see the famous video of the YPJ Syrian sniper, who learned that fire goes both ways if you are easily spotted.

As for the Régiment de la Chaudière, they trace their origins to 1812 and the defense of Canada against the invading Americans to the South. The only French-Canadian unit to hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day, they fought from Caen to Calais then across Holland and the Rhineland. Since 1946, they have been a reserve unit based in Quebec but have seen extensive service in Afghanistan. Their motto is Ære perennius (Stronger than bronze).

The Emperor’s Chambermaids: Happy 305th

Hayes, Michael Angelo, “The 14th. (or The King’s) Light Dragoons. Heavy marching order” (1840). Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. 

Formed 22 July 1715 in southern England during the Jacobite rebellion by newly-appointed Brig. Gen. (later Lt.Gen) James Dormer as (surprise, surprise) Dormer’s Dragoons, the unit was baptized in fire at the Battle of Preston the same year, part of Dormer’s brigade, and went on to provide service in Ireland for 27 years before returning to Scotland in the ’45 Rebellion.

Redesignated the 14th Dragoons in 1751 (a decade after Dormer’s death), then the 14th Light Dragoons in 1776, by 1794 the regiment was saddle-deep in the various French Revolutionary/Napoleanic Wars that raged around the world for the next 21 years. At one point, the regiment was reduced to just 25 men. This saw the 14th fight in Haiti, Flanders, Germany, and Spain.

It was in the latter that the regiment, during the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813, the Dragoons captured a French baggage train that included such booty (wait for it) as a very nice silver chamberpot belonging to Joseph Bonaparte, brother Napoleon.

The relic, retained by the regiment, earned the regiment the wagging nickname of “The Emperor’s Chambermaids.” Photo via the KRH Trust 

Nonetheless, the unit continued to serve around the globe, getting licked by the Americans in the swamps of Chalmette outside of New Orleans in 1815, enduring extended service in India and Persia (after which they became the 14th Hussars), scrap in the Boer Wars where they helped relieve Ladysmith, then chase the Ottomans across Mesopotamia in the Great War, marching through Baghdad.

Following the shake-up in the British Army that came about after Ireland– where the 14th had served off and on over the years– became a Free State in 1922, the regiment was amalgamated with the younger (formed in 1858) 20th Hussars and became the 14th/20th Hussars, shifting back to Indian garrison.

Last mounted parade of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars, Lucknow, 1938. “In 1928 the 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars became the first cavalry regiment to mechanize, receiving Rolls-Royce and Lanchester armored cars. The other British cavalry regiments followed their lead and all were eventually mechanized by 1941.” Photo via National Army Museum NAM. 1963-09-106-1

Losing their horses in the 1930s, the regiment served during WWII in Iraq and Persia– where they had already fought at least twice before– and ended the war in Italy before being used to garrison the British occupation sector of Germany, where they had also been once upon a time.

Eventually becoming part of the British Army of the Rhine off and on during the Cold War– while dispatching units to Cyprus, Malaysia, Aden, and Northern Ireland. The 14th/20th paraded their tanks in Berlin in 1989 before redeploying back to the UK.

How about that digital pattern on the Hussar’s Chieftains?

After service in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the unit was amalgamated with The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) to become the King’s Royal Hussars, going on to serve in Bosnia in 1996 and 1997, Kosovo in 1999, go back to Iraq for like the 6th and 7th time in 2005 (Telic 6) and 2007 (Telic 10), and sent detachments to Afghanistan (Operation Herrick) in 2009 and 2012.

While in Bosnia, members of the King’s Royal Hussars patrolled on horseback, as shown by this shot of Hussars on very Dragoon-like mounted patrol alongside their Challenger tanks, Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia, 1997. Photo by Richard Strickland, NAM. 2018-01-70-7

Today, despite a half dozen name changes and seeing the elephant in America, Africa, Asia and Europe dozens of times over the course of the past three centuries, the King’s Royal Hussars still have that damned Bonaparte chamberpot, dubbed “The Emperor” and even use it in regimental ceremonies.

“Today, the Commanding Officer traditionally asks officers to drink from the Emperor on Mess nights. It remains the most treasured piece of silver possessed by the Regiment,” notes the KRH Trust.

Speaking of their drinking habits, the Hussars made an epic troll video this month on how to have a nice brew-up while in a Challenger, in salute to U.S. Independence Day (leaving that old Battle of New Orleans thing unsaid).

The KRH, set to switch from Challengers to Ajax AFVs this year, is based at Tidworth Garrison.

Happy Turkey Day from Da Nang to Bagram

Official caption: TURKEY TIME—Lance Corporal Walter R. Billetdeoux (Johnstown, PA) takes a healthy bite from a turkey leg on Thanksgiving Day in Vietnam. Sitting in a foxhole on the front lines, just outside of Da Nang, the combat-clad Marine is enjoying his first hot meal in more than two weeks. LCpl Billetdeoux is a member of L Company, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines.

3m-1-142-65, III MAF, Da Nang, Vietnam, 26 Nov 1965, Photo By: Sgt W. Weih. Defense Dept Photo (Marine Corps) A186195

The more things change:

 

The 8mm Mauser AK

Apparently along the Afghan/Paki frontier, among the cottage industry of local gunsmiths who craft anything the market could want, AK variants chambered in 8mm Mauser are a thing.

Boom:

(Photo: Silah Report)

Via The Silah Report:

The AK can be had in various calibers from gun manufacturers and gun shops but this large caliber round is a mystery, why did the gunsmiths choose this round? The simple answer as with most questions is this; the 7.92 × 57 mm Mauser cartridge isn’t regulated like its 7.62 × 51 mm NATO counterpart, which is in use by the Pakistani military, and there were large stockpiles of the ammunition available when this rechambering was conceptualized.

Just wait till Century finds out about this…

More after the jump 

« Older Entries