Don’t Ask U.S. Troops To Solve Haiti’s Problems

“Outside of buttressing a U.S. Marine detail to protect the U.S. Embassy, the Biden administration is wary, if not outright opposed, to Haiti’s request for a U.S. troop deployment. While the prospect of thousands of Haitians fleeing to the United States can’t be ruled out if the situation further deteriorates, President Joe Biden is right to reject the Haitian government’s request. The last thing Washington needs is yet another ill-advised, reactive military intervention in a de facto failed state—particularly at a time when the White House appears intent on extricating U.S. forces from wars that have cost too much, have gone on for too long, and have had next to no return.

Even before Moïse’s late-night assassination, Haiti was in the midst of extreme political and economic turmoil. The nation of 12 million people has been without a functioning parliament for a year and a half. Due to the absence of a legislature, the entire government has operated by decree. Approximately 30 gangs control a large area of Port-au-Prince; thousands of Haitians have fled their neighborhoods from intergang violence. René Sylvestre, the head of Haiti’s Supreme Court, passed away from COVID-19, a virus that is ravaging the broader population.

Moïse’s killing has taken this dire situation and turned it into a catastrophe. Today, there are three separate Haitian politicians claiming to be Moïse’s successor, a political contest for power bearing the markings of a serious confrontation. One of Haiti’s powerful gang bosses is readying his own troops for action, claiming the assassination was a large foreign-orchestrated conspiracy against the Haitian population. The police, corrupt and riven by schisms, aren’t exactly in a position to quell any violence that may erupt.

The U.S. military, however, isn’t in a position to do so either. In fact, it’s questionable whether foreign troops in any capacity would have the resources, patience, and fortitude to save Haitians from the depravity of their own politicians. There was a time not so long ago when United Nations peacekeepers were authorized to return democracy to the island during yet another fractious period in its history—the forced exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That U.N.-authorized peacekeeping mission would last for more than 15 years, and the result was anything but the peace, democracy, and stability Washington and its partners on the Security Council hoped to accomplish. Instead, Haiti’s problems arguably multiplied. The mission was not only implicated in human rights abuses, but brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country which killed upward of 10,000 people.

The U.S. military has some experience in Haiti as well. In 1994, 25,000 U.S. troops were sent to the island in a mission code-named Operation Uphold Democracy, a deployment designed to restore the democratically elected government to power after being ousted in a military coup three years earlier. While the mission succeeded in ridding the military junta from the capital and negotiating the exile of the coup’s architect (Lt. Gen. Raoul Cédras), one can hardly call it a long-term success given Haiti’s current circumstances.”

“To task U.S. troops with political missions is to saddle them with responsibilities they can’t reasonably be expected to meet, all the while providing the host government with the cover to continue business as usual. Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Haiti, deployments like these create more problems than they solve, shift the ultimate responsibility for fixing them onto the backs of U.S. soldiers, and can easily expand from months to years.”

Mexico Just Took an Important Step Toward Ending Military Impunity

“The marines would soon be charged with kidnapping three men in early 2018 in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. These may be the first of many indictments stemming from that six-month deployment, which human rights activists said turned into an extrajudicial reign of terror over the city. Altogether, 257 of the marines special forces unit are suspected of kidnapping or murdering at least 49 people in the spring of 2018, some bodies found tortured and shot through the head in the desert. Others have never been seen again.

One of the disappeared, Jorge Dominguez, was a U.S. citizen, whose case was documented in December by POLITICO. He was 18, running an errand for his father, when he was snatched off the street by soldiers in military vehicles. But despite witness accounts and evidence of a slew of similar abductions, the Trump administration did not intervene on behalf of Dominguez’s family.”

“Mexico’s military is regularly accused of crimes, and the army has been implicated but not prosecuted in the 2014 disappearances of 43 school teachers in the city of Iguala. But soldiers are typically untouchable, and in the rare circumstance that Mexican soldiers have found themselves in court, it’s usually after intense international pressure.”

“the arrests could be viewed as an olive branch to a new U.S. administration. “Trump didn’t really care about oversight of human rights abuses by Mexican forces,” says Raul Benitez, a Latin American security professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “But now, the Biden government may be looking with more detail toward the violations of human rights.”

But the arrests might also have a purely domestic explanation.

“One idea I’ve seen suggested is that, from the Mexican side, AMLO really doesn’t trust the navy in the same way his predecessors did,” says Duncan Tucker, who works with Amnesty International in Mexico City. Since his election, AMLO has increased the army’s power exponentially, awarding it building projects, giving it control of some ports and hospitals, granting it increased control of the border and expanding its budget. Past Mexican presidents had always favored the navy, perhaps because the U.S. also favored them. But AMLO is something of a nationalist. He may view the navy as tainted by U.S. influence, Tucker says, and so might be willing to see it punished publicly.”

“the difference in Nuevo Laredo is that one man, former journalist turned human rights activist Raymundo Ramos, investigates, documents and publicizes the cases. Without him, it’s almost certain the marines would never have appeared in court.”

“While the 30 arrests are not insignificant, there were 257 marines deployed to the area, sharing three small barracks where some of the missing were hidden. And it seems that no high-ranking officials have been charged. The navy has even sealed the records of special forces commanders for five years, so that no one can know who was stationed where.”

Why there’s talk about China starting a war with Taiwan

“No American president has had to choose whether to go to war to defend Taiwan against a Chinese military invasion. President Joe Biden might have the decision thrust upon him.

The outgoing commander of US forces in the Indo-Pacific region, Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, told US lawmakers in March that he believes Beijing will attempt a takeover of the neighboring democratic island — which it considers part of mainland China — within the next six years. Davidson’s successor, Navy Adm. John Aquilino, expressed a similar concern days later.”

“The four-stars’ predictions aren’t wholly shared by everyone in the administration. “I’m not aware of any specific timeline that the Chinese have for being able to try and seize Taiwan,” said one senior US defense official, who, like others in the administration, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive foreign policy issue.”

“Experts I spoke to also felt Davidson and Aquilino’s claims are too alarmist and may be in service of trying to boost defense spending for operations in Asia.

But all agree that China is a more credible threat to Taiwan today than in the past. Beijing flaunts it, too. In recent weeks, China sent 25 warplanes through the island’s airspace, the largest reported incursion to date, and had an aircraft carrier lead a large naval exercise near Taiwan.”

We Got Afghanistan Wrong, but There’s Still Time to Learn Something

“We have already heard a lot about “conditions-based” approaches and all that Afghanistan might lose with our withdrawal. Notably missing from those arguments is any acknowledgment of how inefficient and ineffective our nearly 20-year-long military-led endeavor has been, how our efforts thus far have fed into Afghanistan’s dysfunction, and why we should not expect “more of the same” to lead to better outcomes now.”

“Instead of building a force that fit Afghanistan, we built an Army of mini-me’s. A force that, like our military, requires massive logistical support and technical capabilities to manage. A force that relies heavily on airpower and armored vehicles to fight an enemy who relies on his feet, IEDs and an AK-47. This is not a new revelation, but with the constant turnover of American commanders and a perennially optimistic (or delusional) view that the potential for victory over the Taliban was just around the corner, the instinct was always to double-down, or keep propping up the Afghan forces just long enough to get them over the finish line.
Unfortunately, there was always a fatal flaw to this approach. Pushing western technology and firepower into the Afghan military was never going to be sufficient to beat the Taliban, not when pouring billions of dollars into a government ill-equipped to handle it also contributed to the corruption and illegitimacy that opened additional political space for the Taliban to operate.”

“With President Biden’s decision to withdraw there undoubtedly will be consequences for the Afghan military. The absence of sustained American airpower will enable the Taliban to move even more freely, while the Afghan government will be challenged to move its best fighters around the country via helicopters to counter Taliban gains. Unfortunately, American military leaders have placed so much emphasis on building a force reliant on these assets that it will take some time for security forces more organic to Afghanistan to emerge, and it is far from certain whether an effective force can form in the face of increased Taliban attacks.”

“We must, at long last, acknowledge that building a national army requiring the kind of technological and logistical support to which western militaries are accustomed was not only a massive waste of American blood and treasure, but actually counterproductive to the fight. Jettisoning our delusional vision for the Afghan military will be painful in the short run, but necessary for Afghan stability in the long run. It is well-past time to shift our thinking from how many millions of dollars we need to keep airframes operational, to making sure that those assets that are actually sustainable and useful for Afghan forces are in place as foreign forces withdraw.”

The US military is finally withdrawing from Afghanistan

“The US has formally begun its withdrawal from Afghanistan after almost 20 years in the country, Army Gen. Austin Miller confirmed on Sunday. The news comes less than two weeks after President Joe Biden announced that all US troops would be out of the country by September 11, 2021 — a significant achievement that eluded his predecessors.

According to the New York Times, Miller, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at a press conference in Kabul on Sunday that he had received his orders, and the US would begin “transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces.”

“All of our forces are now preparing to retrograde,” Miller said, according to a CNN report of the same press conference. “Officially, the notification date will be the first of May, but at the same time, as we start taking local actions, we have already begun that.”

Previously, the Trump administration had set May 1 as the deadline for withdrawing all US troops from the country as part of a deal struck with the Taliban in February 2020, but as of this month, the US had about 3,500 troops still in Afghanistan.

As Vox’s Alex Ward reported earlier this month, Biden inherited that promise, and essentially chose to extend the timeline for removal, but without the Taliban’s explicit approval.”

““War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking,” Biden said. “We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded … in Afghanistan. And it’s time to end the forever war.””

The US may still be helping Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war after all

“In February, President Joe Biden announced that he was ending America’s “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, six years into the conflict that has killed around 230,000 people and triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Instead, the US role would be limited to “defensive” operations “to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.”

There’s just one problem: The line between “offensive” and “defensive” support is murky, and critics argue even the limited support the US is providing still helps Riyadh carry out its offensive bombing campaign in Yemen.”

“Biden’s policy sounds straightforward enough. For the past few months, the US made a clean break and no longer provides assistance to Riyadh’s ongoing strikes inside Yemen, right?

Not quite. That’s because the “defensive” support the US is still providing includes greenlighting the servicing of Saudi aircraft.

Multiple US defense officials and experts acknowledged that, through a US government process, the Saudi government pays commercial contractors to maintain and service their aircraft, and those contractors keep Saudi warplanes in the air. What the Saudis do with those fighter jets, however, is up to them.

The US could cancel those contracts at any time, thus effectively grounding the Saudi Air Force, but doing so would risk losing Riyadh as a key regional partner.”

“Riyadh, with its own money and at no cost to the US taxpayer, uses a US government program to procure maintenance for its warplanes. (That service likely was included when the Saudis bought the American-made warplanes.) It may not be the US military providing direct support, then, but the service was still greenlit by the US.”

“Saudi Arabia doesn’t have an Offensive Air Force and a Defensive Air Force. It just has the one aerial service that the US supports.

Still, the offensive part is relatively straightforward: The Saudis find a Houthi target inside Yemen they want to hit, and they bomb it.

But it gets more complicated when you consider what “defensive” might mean. As the Houthis continue to launch missile and drone attacks inside Saudi Arabia, Riyadh might decide to strike a few of the Houthis’ launch points to dissuade further assaults.

Would such a move be defensive or offensive? It’s unclear.

What is clear is that without the US-approved maintenance of Saudi fighters, Riyadh wouldn’t really have the option of launching such retaliatory responses. “They’d be able to fly two out of every 10 aircraft,” said Des Roches. That would give the Houthis an edge in the ongoing fight.”

“it seems likely that US-authorized contractors maintaining Saudi warplanes are indirectly involved in helping the Saudis carry out “offensive” operations, however one defines them. “If we’re servicing the planes that are fighting the war, we’re still supporting the war,” said the Democratic congressional aide. That the contract remains in place, after all, is a policy decision. The US could also decide to maintain other equipment and provide training instead of keeping Saudi aircraft in the sky.

But it’s also true that without the maintenance support, Saudi Arabia would be further exposed to all kinds of attacks from the Houthis (and others). And after nixing the contract, the decades-old ties between Washington and Riyadh might not just spiral downward but sever entirely.”

A deadly fight 33 years ago shows just how destructive a war between the US and Iran could get

“a future conflict is unlikely to go as smoothly for the US as Operation Praying Mantis did, mainly due to Iran’s military modernization and expansion.

Iran’s Navy has gotten larger and more capable, with more vessels able to launch anti-ship missiles and at least three Russian-built Kilo-class attack submarines in service.

Last year, an Iranian Navy exercise included an attack on a barge designed to look like a US aircraft carrier. In January, Iran unveiled the Makran, a “forward base ship” capable of carrying drones and helicopters.

The IRGCN has also been expanding its numbers and capabilities, including recent reports that it is building large missile-laden catamarans.

Iran’s sea mines remain potent, but the biggest threat comes from Iran’s missile arsenal, which is considerably larger and more advanced than it was in the 1980s.

In recent years, Iranian missiles have been used to attack Saudi oil facilities and civilian sites, as well as ships. In January 2020, Iranian cruise missiles hit US bases in Iraq, injuring over 100 service members.

Iran’s missiles failed to hit their targets during Operation Praying Mantis, but things could be very different in the future.”