Taliban militants threaten five provincial capitals in Afghanistan and control more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001.
President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan is to provide limited close air support to the Afghan Security Forces, which bear the brunt of the battle. The U.S. and NATO focus resources on training up the Afghans with the goal of eventually transferring full combat authority to the Afghan government.
The problem is that the Afghan Security Forces are rife with corruption.
They have suffered historic casualties since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014; 4,500 men were lost between March and August, with 900 of those casualties sustained in the month of July alone. Current estimates put Afghan losses at nearly 18 men per day.
Obama’s strategy is doing “just enough to lose slowly” in Afghanistan, according to New America Foundation Senior Fellow Douglas Ollivant. Independent estimates find the Taliban threatening five provincial capitals in Afghanistan, spanning hundreds of miles apart. The stress of multiple battlefield fronts over the entire country is stretching the beleaguered Afghans to the brink.
The Taliban’s greatest success has come in Helmand province, once home to tens of thousands of U.S. troops in 2010-2011. Obama surged troops in Afghanistan in 2009 with the hope of pacifying the historic Taliban sanctuary. The Taliban now control nearly 85 percent of the province, and are besieging the capital city of Lashkar Gah.
“The [Afghan ]Army’s bringing security, and I’ll give them a D-minus, and they have a D-minus because of the [airstrikes] we’re bringing,” the U.S. Army colonel in charge of advising troops in Helmand province told The Washington Post. He defended the grade, saying at least it was “passing.”
U.S. military officials told the Post the dire situation in Helmand province stems from a 2014 decision not to have any military advisers in the province. The U.S. military reportedly believed it was “an acceptable risk.” After a year of devastating casualties, the U.S. quickly dispatched advisers to Helmand province to quell the bleeding.
A senior U.S. administration official termed the overall Afghan situation as an “eroding stalemate.”
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