Taliban militants overran the Sangin district of Helmand province in Afghanistan Thursday, where hundreds of U.S. and British marines died throughout the Afghan war.
Sangin was one of the deadliest districts for NATO troops throughout the 2001-2014 combat mission in Afghanistan, and is in the heart of the Taliban’s historic support zones. The Afghan National Security Forces have suffered historic casualties since the end of the combat mission, and the Taliban have gained more territory than at any time since 2001.
The fall of Sangin could spell disaster for the Afghan National Security Forces who have requested more U.S. troops and assistance from President Donald Trump. “The ANSF faces readiness gaps that will expose multiple provincial capitals to recurrent attacks by the Taliban and escalating attacks in Kabul by multiple groups, including ISIS,” the Institute for the Study of War warned Monday.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and commander of U.S. Central Command both recently told Congress the U.S. needs a “few thousand” more troops to strengthen its mission in Afghanistan.
When the Afghan Security Forces withdrew from Sangin district, U.S. aircraft pummeled the area to destroy any abandoned equipment so it could not be used by the Taliban. A U.S. military spokesman also confirmed to The New York Times that U.S. aircraft also airlifted out any remaining Afghan military personnel from Sangin.
The U.S. is already slated to send another 300 U.S. Marines back to Helmand province to train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. “We’re viewing this as a high-risk mission … We’re not in any way viewing this as a noncombat mission, or something to take lightly,” Brig. Gen. Roger Turner told reporters at the time of the announcement.
The Pentagon latest report on Afghanistan rated the Afghan Security Forces “promising but inconsistent” in their progress since 2014. The group has proven adept at surrounding and besieging major cities, while consolidating rural areas.
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