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South Asia Strategy Already Paying Off in Afghanistan, Official Says

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South Asia Strategy Already Paying Off in Afghanistan, Official Says
12/12/2017 03:08 PM CST

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A U.S. Special Forces soldier, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, sets fire to a field of marijuana, found outside of a compound housing a drug lab, during an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. The operation was conducted, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit to disrupt and destroy drug labs owned by the Taliban in the area. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez

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South Asia Strategy Already Paying Off in Afghanistan, Official Says

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2017 — Government forces are developing momentum that will mean a very bad fighting season for the Taliban and other enemies of Afghanistan, Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch told Pentagon reporters today.

Bunch, the chief of the Resolute Support Mission’s future operations division, said the new South Asia strategy President Donald J. Trump announced in August and the new permissions that flow from that fundamentally changed the battlefield in favor of Afghan national security forces.

New Strategy

The new strategy is conditions based — meaning the coalition will remain in place until conditions improve to the point that Afghan forces can maintain security on their own. This means the Taliban and other terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al-Qaida, the Haqqani group and others, cannot wait out the coalition. “As [Army] Gen. [John W.] Nicholson has stated, we will be here until the job is done,” Bunch said. Nicholson is the commander of the Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

Afghan forces and the coalition have already changed tactics and this is having an effect on the Taliban, Bunch said. His shop developed a sustained air interdiction campaign aimed at eliminating the drugs that are at the heart of the Taliban. “Using air power, we have been able to target the Taliban in their so-called safe zones, command-and-control nodes, illicit revenue-generating ventures, and their logistical networks,” he said. “This new air interdiction campaign directly strengthens the Afghan defense forces and their continued battlefield successes.”

Bunch said the Taliban receives about $300 million to $400 million a year with about $200 million of it coming from the production of heroin.

“Since the beginning of this campaign, we have eliminated 25 narcotics processing labs from the Taliban inventory,” the general said. “This equates to almost $80 million of drug money eliminated from the kingpins’ pockets, while denying over $16 million of direct revenue to their Taliban partners.”

The strikes come from coalition air forces, the Afghan air force and other coalition fires.

“Additionally, the Afghan National Interdiction Unit conducted two simultaneous raids of Taliban narcotics bazaars, as part of this integrated campaign.” This, he said, resulted in more than 2 tons of heroin and more than 5.5 tons of opium being seized.

The strikes caught Taliban leaders off guard, and that enabled the killing of Taliban “Red Squad” commander Mullah Shah Wali. Bunch called this a severe blow to the Taliban’s criminal network. “Again, the Taliban have never had to face a sustained targeting campaign focused on disrupting their illicit revenue activities,” he said.

The campaign continues and Bunch promised the Taliban will face a long winter “as we will continue to disrupt their revenue sources again and again and again.”

Change is coming to yet another aspect of the fight as Resolute Support advisers and trainers will begin working with Afghan kandaks — a unit roughly comparable to battalions. “This change allows our forces to train, advise and assist Afghan units and leaders directly controlling the fight and accelerate the transition to increased capability and capacity,” Bunch said.

This aspect of the fight will kick into high gear when a new U.S. Army security force assistance brigade deploys early next year. This will “further enhance our advising of the Afghan defense forces going into the next fighting season,” he said.

Bleak Future for Taliban

The Taliban face a bleak future. “They have been completely unable to achieve any objectives from their declared Operation Mansouri during this fighting season,” Bunch said. “In addition to their unrealistic goals, they have been unable to take a provincial capital or even a single city. This year the Taliban and have fared poorly.”

The terror group was forced to stop combat operations and a return to high-profile attacks, kidnappings for ransom and assassinations, the general said. “These are heinous acts of violence that bring attention to their group and indiscriminately target the Afghan people, resulting in unimaginable suffering,” he said.

Now the momentum is clearly with the Afghan defense forces. “Our coalition is proving the enemy’s theory of victory is wrong: They believed they would win because we lacked political will,” Bunch said. “They underestimated us, and they underestimated the will of the majority of the Afghan people. Eighty-seven percent of the Afghans believe the Taliban is bad for Afghanistan.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, future operations chief at the Resolute Support mission headquarters, discusses the coalition’s efforts to confront and defeat Taliban activities in Afghanistan and how the extremist group will eventually fail, Dec. 12, 2017.
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12/05/2017 06:00 PM CST

The U.S. Navy Band participates in a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 6, 2017, for Petty Officer 3rd Class Howard Bean, who was killed aboard the USS Oklahoma in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser

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Trump Signs Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Authorization

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Trump Signs Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Authorization
12/12/2017 03:46 PM CST

Trump Signs Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Authorization

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump signed the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act into law during a White House ceremony today.

The act calls for $626 billion for the department’s base budget and another $66 billion for operations. The act includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel.

The act authorizes the department to spend money, but the appropriations bill — which actually provides the funds — is still in Congress.

U.S. Military: ‘Greatest Fighting Force’

“This historic legislation demonstrates our unwavering commitment to our men and women in uniform — the greatest fighting force in the history of the world — and we’re making it a lot better than even that,” Trump said before signing the bill.

The president said the legislation “represents a momentous step toward rebuilding our military and securing the future for our children.”

Trump added, “In recent years, our military has undergone a series of deep budget cuts that have severely impacted our readiness, shrunk our capabilities and placed substantial burdens on our warfighters. History teaches us that when you weaken your defenses, you invite aggression.”

The president recalled George Washington’s belief, that to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.

“With the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might,” Trump said. “This legislation will enhance our readiness … and modernize our forces and help provide our service members with the tools that they need to fight and to win.”

Defeating ISIS

The act authorizes funding for the continued campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Trump said. “As you know, we’ve won in Syria, we’ve won in Iraq,” the president said. “But they spread to other areas and we’re getting them as fast as they spread.”

The act also improves missile defense capabilities in face of the danger from North Korea, the president said. The act also upgrades the Army and Marine Corps ground combat vehicles, allows for the purchase of new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and paves the way for Virginia-class submarines.

“Finally, the defense bill authorizes major investments in our military’s greatest weapon of all: its warriors,” he said. “The NDAA increases the size of the American armed forces for the first time in seven years, and it provides our military service members with their largest pay increase in eight years.”

The president called on Congress to complete the job by eliminating sequestration and passing the appropriations bill.

“We must work across party lines to give our heroic troops the equipment, resources and support that they have earned a thousand times over,” he said. “Together, we will send a clear message to our allies and a firm warning to our enemies and adversaries: America is strong, proud, determined, and ready.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Related Links

Special Report: FY 2018 Budget Proposal
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Blue Ridge SAR swimmers undergo training
12/06/2017 06:00 PM CST

171207-N-NM917-017 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 7, 2017) -Search and Rescue swimmer Steve Kapala, right, and Seaman Kyle Love, attached to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge, participate in Search and Rescue training with Afloat Training Group West Pac at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Dec. 7, 2017. SAR swimmers play a key role in personnel safety and mission readiness of U.S. Naval Operations. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Kirkjohnson