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After the MOAB
Deadliest Taliban Attack on Afghan Army as Mattis Arrives in Kabul

At least 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack on a military base near Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, the deadliest such attack against a military target since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001. As the New York Times reports:

Dressed in military uniforms, a squad of 10 Taliban militants drove in two army Ford Ranger trucks past seven checkpoints. They arrived inside northern Afghanistan’s largest military installation just as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed soldiers were emerging from Friday Prayers and preparing for lunch.

For the next five hours, the militants went on a rampage, killing at least 140 soldiers and officers in what is emerging as the single deadliest known attack on an Afghan military base in the country’s 16-year war. Some assailants blew themselves up among the soldiers fleeing for their lives, according to survivors, witnesses and officials.

“Today, there was even a shortage of coffins,” said Ibrahim Khairandish, a member of the provincial council in Balkh Province, where the attack took place. Other officials feared that the death toll could exceed 200.

This the latest in a long string of attacks in what have been an increasingly deadly past few years for the Afghan army. The Afghan security forces suffered about 15,000 casualties in the first eight months of 2016, about as many as the entirety of 2015. Amidst the heavy losses, the government is also losing territory: today, the central government controls only a little more than half the country, a double-digit decline from the 72% it controlled in November 2015. While the dropping of the “Mother of all Bombs” on ISIS positions in Nangarhar may have sent signals internationally, the Taliban attack in Mazar-i-Sharif should be a clear signal that it’s the Taliban— not ISIS— who remain the deadliest actor in the country.

There’s reason to think the Trump administration will renew focus on Afghanistan despite, or perhaps because of, the government’s failure to resist the Taliban. Earlier this month, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster visited Afghanistan ahead of an expected strategy review; Secretary of Defense Mattis arrived in a surprise visit this morning. In a statement, Mattis said that 2017 is likely to be another “tough year” in the fight and suggested that Russia may arming the Taliban. If proven, it would be an historical irony in a war whose end remains beyond sight.

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  • Andrew Allison

    So 16 years of war, at enormous cost in US lives and money and misery for the native population, has achieved precisely nothing! Iran, Libya, Syria, etc. more of the same. What are our so-called “leaders” thinking?

    • Kevin

      Our strategy should have been to devastate those who harbored our enemies. Supporting non-Pashtun warlords to keep them in check. Trying to rebuild and modernize Afghanistan was a fool’s errand.

      • Andrew Allison

        Yup. Simply put, don’t go to war unless you intend to do whatever’s necessary to win decisively.

      • f1b0nacc1

        I am a big believer in the old adage ‘rubble don’t make trouble’….

        Make it clear that any country that harbors our enemy will suffer, then back it up with enough demonstrations that nobody wants to try to make us prove it. No discussion of “rebuilding the devastated country” (shades of “The Mouse that Roared”), simply pain and destruction, sufficient to dissuade future perpetrators.

        • D4x

          Too bad that approach has not (yet) worked for Israel, although PM Saad Hariri of Lebanon seems to want to avoid Lebanon being ‘bombed into the stone age if Hezbollah attacks’ in 2017, because they are part of Lebanon’s government, unlike 2006. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/228407

          • ——————————

            “avoid Lebanon being ‘bombed into the stone age if Hezbollah attacks’ in 2017”

            I wasn’t aware Lebanon had ever rose out of the stone age, so that they could be bombed back into it….

          • D4x
          • ——————————

            Looks a lot better than the last time I saw it…but then that was the early 90’s.

          • D4x

            Lebanon had a long civil war 1975-1990. That rebuilding took time.

            Israel was restrained from massive bombing by Rice/Bush 43 during the short 2006 Hezbollah war. Not this time. Not with the 2006 UNSC Res 1701 that defined the cease-fire/frozen conflict terms, since totally ignored by Hezbollah.

          • ——————————

            What was Bush’s reasoning for that?
            Anyway, glad there are no ‘restraints’ on Israel now.
            Do you think.they will act?

          • D4x

            Because Israel can, and has mostly been restrained, especially with Gaza, Lebanon knows it is serious deterrence. Besides the sites in Southern Lebanon, the targets are infrastructure. Hezbollah IS part of the government. Does that mean the est 100,000 rockets and missiles are under control of the Lebanese Armed Forces chain of command, or Hezbollah?
            Lebanon is straining, housing one million Syrian refugees.
            Sec Mattis said it clearly: Lebanese Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
            I do not know the details of Bush43’s reasoning in 2006. He certainly had a good list. I did not read much of this wiki entry, but enough to sense the complexity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Lebanon_War
            The Saudis blamed Hezbollah, and other Sunni nations agreed.
            No one really wanted historic, beautiful Lebanon to be the next Iraq, again.

            In 2006, one could still hope a UNSC resolution meant something, specifically no Hezbollah rearmament.
            Now? Hezbollah probably has rockets labeled:
            “Made in Korea. Paid for by Iran. Death to Israel, and, the USA.”
            Apparently, Hezbollah has nothing to do with the Taliban/ISIS attack in Mazar-i-Sharif.

          • Andrew Allison

            Oh, please. Before 1975 Beirut was a thriving metropolis and tourist destination. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut

          • ——————————

            I know AA. But when I was there it was only a few years after the war had finished and it was in rough shape. I haven’t seen it since, and was not aware that it has been rebuilt until D4x recently sent me the link that shows it’s present condition.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The Israelis have used it on occasion, and when they do, it has worked quite well. The few fleabites of mortars and unguided rockets (always enough to give Hamas something to celebrate over, never enough to do damage) are simply theater, the Israelis understand this and react accordingly.

            They have been wise enough to be careful about their retaliation, using a scalpel (assassination) when possible. The elimination of the Palestinian ‘middle management’ has been quite effective in ending the bulk of the bombings, and that (combined with the wall, you know…the wall that all of the Left told us would never work) has neatly reduced the terror campaign to background noise.

          • D4x

            ‘Background noise’ is a bit cavalier.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Of course it is…but it IS catchy….grin

          • D4x

            The most extensive evolutionary map of dog breeds ever made. NIH genome project. Weird ‘map’. Looks like corgis are border collies with short legs?

            http://www.popsci.com/#page-2

            Like dachsunds are Afghan hounds with short legs…keeping to the post topic.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Thank you so much for that link….fascinating article!

            The main difference between border collies and corgis is not so much the legs (that too), but the attitude. Border Collies lack the sheer love of companionship that Corgis have. They are both smarter than we silly apes, but Corgis love to be with us anyway…Border Collies simply tolerate us as they try to teach us to get with the program! (grin)

          • D4x

            In need of a hearty laugh?
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/36b1bf5333fc12c9e7ca13d3459e92a4eb7e26027315a7396d6bc1d1daa13835.jpg

            (Border Collies got the crazy eyes, while Afghan Hounds get hair stylists!)

          • f1b0nacc1

            Every year my wife bedecks our corgis with antlers for Christmas, and the poor things sit patiently while she does so. Our cat of course looks at them with thinly disguised contempt…

            In truth, they are adorable, no matter how silly they look..

          • Andrew Allison

            Does that make Border Collies cats?

          • f1b0nacc1

            Border collies are far smarter than cats….and much, much crazier

      • ——————————

        Trying to rebuild and modernize most places is a fools errand. If a population has accomplished little to nothing before you got there, they will surely screw up what you give them after you leave….

    • D4x

      Our so-called leaders keep thinking it is the 21st century, but that geography still matters, and that this really is not the Fourth Anglo-Afghan War, without the Ghurkas as police that worked well enough in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War, and certainly without the War of Retribution, the follow-up to the First Anglo-Afghan War:

      http://www.williamdalrymple.uk.com/books/return_of_a_king

      Since Mazar–i-Sharif is in the less-Pashtun north, perhaps the Uzbeks are stirring things up with the Taliban.

  • Fat_Man

    As I commented here:
    https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/04/23/turkey-close-to-buying-air-missile-defenses-from-russia/

    “Of course even if Turkey is not part of our logistics in Afghanistan, we
    need to get out of there because our logistics are dependent on our
    enemy Russia and our frenemy Pakistan.”

    If the Russians are arming the Taliban, as the Pakistanis have been doing all along, things are worse than I thought. We need to get out of there.

    • Sami Shahid

      Dude, Iranians are arming the Taliban not Russian’s or Pakistani’s.

      • Fat_Man

        I am sure that the Taliban will take arms from whomever is giving them. The Russians and Iranians are allies. As for Pakistan, their role in sponsoring the Taliban is well documented.

        Also read the last graph in the FP. I wasn’t making it up.

        • Sami Shahid

          Pakistan is a victim of illegal Afghan immigrants and Afghan refugees. The US needs to eliminate Good Terrorists of Afghanistan ” Anti-Pak ” jihadists if the US wants a peaceful Afghanistan as terrorists are friends with no one ! It is just an advice so take it although Americans do not need advice !

          • Fat_Man

            You are a shill for the Pakistani Government. They are America’s enemy. The Taliban are their tools. We must flee Afghanistan and bomb Pakistan.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The Afghan army either gives a hoot whether Taliban militants can run circles around them—–or they don’t. Seven checkpoints?

  • Sami Shahid

    You dont need to blame another state but you need “not to tolerate ” enemies of other countries living in Afghanistan ! You need to tell Afghanistan that it should stop distinguishing between terrorists as terrorists are not good or bad because the good ones will bite Afghanistan like a deadly snake ! But why would the US tell all this to the stupid Afghanistan as Americans want Pakistan to fail and want influence in Central Asia. Anyway, as far as this attack is concerned then they were just Afghan soldiers who switched their alliance to the Taliban and killed dozens of their fellows.

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