Friday, March 24, 2017

Big Win for Taliban in Helmand: Sangin Falls Despite U.S. Air Power

I worked briefly at a plastics factory with a tough German guy, an alcoholic, a wanderer, who also apparently was a Buddhist. After I left the plastics factory I ran into him at the old downtown library. He asked me if I could help him type up a cover letter (this was in the mid-'90s before the Internet explosion). When we parted he shared with me some Buddhist wisdom, something to the effect that you can only think of one thing at a time.

I always think of this is in relation to how the media works. We basically can only think of one thing at a time, and that one thing for what is approaching now quite a bit of time, is Trump.

(If you dip in today to get your Trump fix be sure to read David Brooks' "The Trump Elite. Like the Old Elite, but Worse!" Brooks is a man on fire lately. He has been unchained from his role as house conservative and he is writing column after incendiary column absolutely burning Trump and the GOP to the ground. Of the Gray Lady's regular columnists, I pretty much only read Brooks now. The others are too tainted by Democratic Party Russophobia.)

Trump dominates the news cycle every cycle. Areas that the prestige press were reluctant to cover prior to Trump, like Yemen and Libya, have almost disappeared entirely; those that received regular attention, like Afghanistan, have receded into the shadows.

A must-read story is yesterday's dispatch from Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, "Taliban Take an Afghan District, Sangin, That Many Marines Died to Keep." This is big news, frontpage news, not page 6, where it is located in the national edition.

The Taliban have been fighting constantly for eight years to take Sangin, a critical district in Helmand Province that connects to Kandahar Province. The Taliban bloodied the British Army and Royal Marines, and then when the U.S. Marines were rotated in, they bloodied them. When the Brits and Yanks departed the Afghan casualty figures were so high that government officials did not release them.
The Taliban had long dominated most territory in Sangin except for the district center, which was home to the government and police headquarters as well as the army base. According to Mr. Shakir, the insurgents now hold seven of Helmand Province’s 14 districts; in five of the others, he said, the government holds only the district centers. Only two districts and the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, are completely under government control, he said.
The U.S. is trying to spin this as something other than a retreat, but that's what it is. They couldn't hold the district center even with air power.

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