Casualties among Afghan forces peaked as high as 18 per day in late August, indicating that the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan is alive and well.
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the Taliban are engaging in some of the toughest fighting since the U.S. invaded in 2001. The resulting casualties have stretched Afghan rescue crews thin, with 125 killed and 280 wounded evacuated from 37 areas across the country between Aug. 22 and 29, according to The Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff. Total ANSF casualty numbers could be much higher, since Gibbons-Neff’s figures only represent the dead and injured that were air lifted.
Airlift rescues in Afghanistan rose sharply in 2016. The ANSF engaged in 2,727 air rescues from Jan. 1 to April 1, compared to 1,944 during the same time period in 2015.
The numbers are remarkably telling from multiple perspectives. First, they show that despite over a decade of U.S. training, equipment and support, the ANSF are woefully unprepared to tackle the Taliban threat on their own. Second, it is clear that the Taliban resurgence is significantly widespread, based on the number of casualty locations reported.
Despite high casualties and a resurgent Taliban, U.S. officials insist the war in Afghanistan is making progress.
U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of NATO’s “Resolute Support” mission in Afghanistan, has regularly insisted the Taliban do not control a substantial portion of the Afghan people and territory.
“We believe the Afghans control or heavily influence 68 to 70 percent of the population,” Nicholson told reporters during a Pentagon press briefing last week. “We believe the enemy control or influence about 10 percent of the population. And then the balance, roughly a quarter, is in play, is contested.”
“This is a positive in the sense of the majority of the population is under control of the government forces and this primarily the population centers, and so on, and the enemy is primarily in more rural areas that have less impact on the future of the country,” added Nicholson.
While the ANSF, backed by American advisers, may control population centers, it is in the vast, harsh terrain of Afghanistan’s rural areas where the Taliban thrives. The insurgent group uses rural areas as staging points from which they can engage in guerrilla tactics and hit-and-run attacks on the aforementioned population centers across Afghanistan.
“The Taliban has been on the offensive in multiple theaters and has been pressing Afghan forces on multiple fronts,” Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Afghan military and police are often outgunned by the Taliban, and are poorly supported in the field.”
Roggio and his team at the Long War Journal estimate that the Taliban actually control more than 22 percent of Afghanistan’s national districts.
“The Taliban has been overrunning military and police outposts. Additionally, there really doesn’t seem to be a ‘fighting season’ any longer as the Taliban has been attacking year round for two years now,” Roggio told TheDCNF, referring to spring and summer seasons when Afghan forces traditionally engage in combat. The Taliban “control and contest” more territory now than it has at any time since the U.S. invaded in 2001, Roggio noted in a post for the Long War Journal last week.
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