Afghanistan by the numbers
Happy Friday. “Discharge” is my week-in-review, with links to news articles, analysis, and longer reads to cap off the news cycle.
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Before diving into this week's Discharge, two quick updates:
I've an EXCLUSIVE update on Delta Crescent Energy, whose story I shared Wednesday. Their order to wind-down has been extended through Aug. 31, according to two officials briefed on the contract. At this moment, Ret. Lt. Col. Reese is still in Syria working with U.S. partners.
President Biden announced all military personnel would be out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, among them Afghan interpreters who worked closely with U.S. forces. They will be moved to bases abroad.
The war in Afghanistan has been a recurring theme in media for two-thirds of my life. I enrolled at Valley Forge Military Academy the October in which U.S. troops deployed overseas for the first year of what would be a two-decade war.
Veterans groups say that after 20 years the withdrawal from America’s ‘forgotten war’ provokes complicated feelings.
Jo-Ann Maitland, the president of American Gold Star Mothers, said that the final withdrawal of troops was “a day for respect, a day to respect and thank those for the service they have done” (Guardian).
I’ve pulled together a set of numbers of the cost of the war. Where not specified, the source is Brown University’s “Cost of War” project.
$815,700,000,000: cost of the war in Afghanistan (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report)
$48,500,000,000: cost of reconstruction efforts reported by civil agencies, DoS and USAID (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report)
$296,000,000,000: cost of in medical and other care for veterans
$88,320,000,000: on rebuilding Afghan military forces. (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report)
241,000: number of people killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 because of the war
71,000: number of those who were civilians
2,352: number of those who were U.S. troops (DoD Casualty report)
~20,149: number of wounded U.S. troops (DoD Casualty report)
7,800 U.S. citizens who worked in Afghanistan (Congressional report)
3,076: days until the Taliban will collect, through fees from the Sher Khan Bandar border complex along the border with Tajikistan, the $40 million which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent to build the crossing (WSJ)
90: percent of troops already withdrawn (Pentagon, via NBC)
18,000: number of Afghans who applied for Special Immigrant Visas (NYT)
20: percent of those applications that are approved (DoS IOG)
53: days left for the U.S.G. to make good on its promise to repatriate Afghan interpreters (War, U.S.A. tally)
16,000 pieces of equipment destroyed upon leaving the country (U.S. Central Command, via CNN)
1: number of Cinnamon Toast Pop Tarts left behind by American forces at Bagram Air Base (WSJ)
Top Brass (Best Of)
News & Off-News
From the Department of Med-Tech We All Want: forget supersoldier exoskeletons, because SOCOM is testing an "experimental pill" to stave off aging for its soldiers. Peloton subscription not included (Yahoo).
Citing operational security, a Defense official won’t disclose exactly what a new battalion of U.S. Marines will use while they adapt to warfare of the future. But I’m willing to bet it’ll be armed microdrones (See: “Olympus Has Fallen”). The largest-ever ransomware attack, crippling more than 1,000 businesses worldwide, began in Miami, Florida, at a company called Kaseya. Experts say Russia-based hacking group REvil is to blame, and it feels like what we’re seeing is the start of a new cyberwar (Quartz).
Troops are heading overseas in an effort to further deter Russia:
To Iraq: the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Roughly 1,800 soldiers and personnel.
To Europe, the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. Roughly 3,800 soldiers and personnel.
A federal judge in Austin, Texas, has ruled that the U.S. Air Force bears the majority responsibility, 60%, for former serviceman Devin Kelley killing more than two dozen people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in 2017 (NBC).
Annnnnnddd (buckle up) …. Dr. Anthony Fauci lied about COVID, meaning CDC guidelines were a lie, and by extension made wearing a mask a sin, says one pilot with the 49th Fighter Training Squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, in Mississippi. He claimed Christian belief exemption for wearing a face mask. He now wants to fly again. He’s unvaccinated. Maybe a higher calling can take the stick instead (Air Force Times).
And to that end: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said servicemembers promised to discharge themselves from the military if forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
ArmyTimes @ArmyTimesPrepare for mandatory COVID vaccines in September, Army says in EXORD https://t.co/nAyVxR54o3 https://t.co/zkI8ZkFva0
The United States is unprepared for its current strategic challenges, argues Bruce Held and Brad Martin in War on the Rocks …
… as Michele A. Flournoy, in Foreign Affairs, agrees. The U.S. military must reimagine how it fights and must make the investments necessary to secure its edge.
The Footlocker (Longer Reads)
I, Warbot: The Dawn of Artificially Intelligent Conflict by Kenneth Payne
From the publisher: Artificial Intelligence is going to war. Intelligent military systems are already reshaping conflict—from the chaos of battle, with pilotless drones and robot tanks, to the headquarters far from the action, where generals and politicians use technology to weigh up what to do. AI changes how we fight, and even how likely it is that we will.
Warbots will be faster, more agile and more deadly than today’s crewed weapons. New tactics are already emerging, but much deeper thinking is needed. When will an intelligent machine escalate, and how might you deter it? Can robots predict the future? And what happens to the ‘art of war’ as machines become creative?
An international campaign against ‘killer robots’ hopes to ban AI from conflict. But the genie is out—autonomous weapons are too useful for states to outlaw. Still, crafting sensible rules for our warbots is possible. This fascinating book shows how it might be done.
Want to see your book, longread or monograph promoted here? Email us a galley! We may receive a commission for purchases made through War, U.S.A. affiliate links.
Fact of the Week:
U.S. troops evacuated Bagram Air Base last week. Hemmed by the snowy peaks of the Hindu Kush, New York City Fire Department personnel and New York City Police Department officers buried a piece of the World Trade Center on-site in December 2001. (Reuters)
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