Taliban militants are poised to launch an operation on the major Afghan city of Kunduz as President Donald Trump considers sending thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The Taliban took Kunduz for a brief period in September 2015, marking the first time the group held a major city since the beginning of the U.S. invasion in 2001. The terror militia took the city again nearly a year to the date in October 2016, and appear poised to make another run at it.
The Long War Journal notes that the Taliban have credibly claimed to control much of the surrounding areas of the city in recent days. The city holds important symbolic value to the insurgent movement as “the Taliban presence in Kunduz and other northern provinces shatters the image of the Taliban as a southern power comprised of Pashtun nationalists,” the LWJ explains.
The city’s troubled recent history with the Taliban in many ways underscores the entire U.S. effort in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) seem unable to maintain regular security around the city but have a nascent presence in the district center.
The U.S. mission is to train, advise, and assist the ANSF in the fight against the Taliban. This is part of a broader mission to support the Afghan government’s control of the country so the U.S. can eventually withdraw. The problem is enormous corruption plagues the national forces and government, and they have struggled to maintain even a semblance of stability.
The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted April 30 that Afghan forces face “many problems: unsustainable casualties, temporary losses of provincial and district centers, weakness in logistics and other functions, illiteracy in the ranks, often corrupt or ineffective leadership, and over-reliance on highly trained special forces for routine missions.”
To fix these problems, Trump’s most senior advisors have formulated a plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan that can train lower level units. The proposal also includes changing the U.S. military’s rules of engagement while supporting the ANSF. The goal is to curb the Taliban’s battlefield gains and push them into entering a peace process with the Afghan government.
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