The Pentagon’s semi-annual assessment of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan portends a grim situation for President-elect Donald Trump when he assumes control of America’s longest war.
The sum of the assessment basically amounts to two ideas: The scale of the problem is much larger than the current U.S. commitment, and the pace of the solution — training Afghan soldiers and then keeping them alive — is faltering dramatically.
The U.S. resolute support command estimates the Taliban control 10 percent of the Afghan population, and contest the U.S. backed Afghan government for another 20 percent. The report notes that the government has been adept at keeping control of the major cities in Afghanistan, while continue face a “resilient insurgency” in rural areas.
The Pentagon also rated the U.S. backed Afghan Security Forces “promising but inconsistent” in their progress since the U.S. ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The Taliban now control more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the U.S. effort began in 2001. The group has proven adept at surrounding and besieging major cities, while consolidating rural areas.
The terrorist group has also inflicted historic casualties on the Afghan forces, with estimates at nearly 18 men dying per day. Nine hundred Afghan soldiers were killed in the month of August alone, and recruitment rates likely will not be able to backstop the bleeding.
The threat assessment of the report additionally highlights the many dangers emanating from Afghanistan. “Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from both the Afghan insurgency and extremist networks, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and to a lesser extent al Qaeda,” the report warns. Al-Qaida continues to provide “some limited support to insurgent groups targeting Afghan and coalition forces”
“There is a high concentration of terrorist and extremist organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with several known designated organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, creating a complex threat environment,” the report warns.
President Barack Obama has committed nearly 9,000 troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2017, but they will largely remain secluded on major U.S. bases. Trump will have to decide what force level to maintain in Afghanistan, what rules of engagement the U.S. operates under, and how to deal with Pakistani government to Taliban elements.
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