With Adam Rawnsley
Overflight. The U.S. Air Force and Marines teamed with the South Korean and Japanese air forces Thursday to conduct an unprecedented show of force and live fire exercise over the Korean peninsula. And the timing was no coincidence.
The mission “was conducted in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch,” which flew over Japan earlier this week, the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement. “North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces. The Corps sent four F-35B’s to join two USAF B-1B bombers, two Japanese F-15s and four South Korean F-15s “for the first time in a sequenced bilateral mission with Japan and Republic of Korea air forces in Northeast Asia,” Pacom said.
Afghanistan. The U.S. military command in Afghanistan has opened an investigation into an airstrike that allegedly killed as many as 11 civilians in eastern Logar province, the second incident this week involving civilian casualties. The other incident occurred Monday, and residents and officials in Herat Province in western Afghanistan claimed airstrikes there had killed more than a dozen civilians. The Afghan Ministry of Defense said that the later strike had been carried out by the Afghan Air Force and that 18 Taliban fighters had also been killed.
The strikes come as Defense Secretary James Mattis weighs sending thousands more Americans to advise Afghan forces in the thick of the fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State, and increasing airstrikes and artillery support to blunt the Taliban’s recent momentum.
Real troop numbers. The Defense Department admitted Wednesday that there are already 11,000 American troops in Afghanistan, a number vastly higher than the 8,400 they had claimed for months were deployed. So, why the deception?
FP’s Paul McLeary writes that there are thousands of troops deployed both to Afghanistan (and Iraq) on a “temporary” basis, often for just weeks at a time, that the Pentagon didn’t count as deployed since they are not part of a scheduled, longer rotation. The practice, the military claims, was made necessary due to the Obama administration’s cap of 8,400 troops in the country, which forced the military to split up units and only deploy them piecemeal.
The Trump administration accepted the policy, and “the new…