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Afghanistan in Peril
Taliban Resurgent in Helmand Province

Even amid a bloody leadership struggle between its competing factions, the Taliban remains a serious threat to Afghanistan’s government in Kabul. A 15-man delegation sent by President Ashraf Ghani to Helmand province reported back that Afghan National Army forces are barely holding on against relentless Taliban pressure, according to the Times of London:

The delegation found that police in Helmand “regularly” sold their weapons to the Taliban, before asking the Afghan government for more. The creation of “ghost soldiers”, which allows corrupt commanders in Helmand to draw the pay of non-existent troops, has added to the confusion. “The government is not completely sure how many security forces it has in Helmand, and how many casualties they are suffering.”

The corruption has penetrated every level of local governance and policing in Helmand: Dr Waziri found that some of those in his own delegation were corrupt, which delayed the release of its report. “I realised that some of the MPs in my delegation had secured their relatives jobs as district police chiefs and governors in Helmand, and were receiving kickbacks from the rackets,” he said. “Now, members of the same delegation I took to Helmand don’t want me to present all of my report to the president in case he learns the truth.”

The provincial capital of Lashkar Gah is reportedly in a state of panic as outlying towns and hamlets fall one-by-one to the Taliban. And the notorious town of Sangin, a hub in the regional opium trade and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting during NATO’s campaign in Helmand, was on the verge of falling until U.S. Special Forces were dispatched to it last month.

While pundits debate the merits of sending American soldiers to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, American troops already on the ground in Afghanistan have had their hands full this year with a resurgent Taliban. President Obama has already said he won’t be withdrawing troops on deadline, despite previously promising to do so. But as the Taliban continue to make advances despite the current American presence, we wonder what Obama’s goal is in Afghanistan, and how he plans to achieve it.

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  • jeburke

    The worst thing about Obama’s plan for Afghanistan is that he obviously has no plan except to draw down and hope the Taliban won’t drive into Kabul until he’s out of office. Rather than walk away and watch as the place crumbles, it would be better to summon a big pow wow that includes the Kabul government, the Taliban, Pakistan, the US and NATO and take a stab at some sort of deal.

    • Dale Fayda

      For what earthly reason would the Taliban even consider any kind of deal with anyone? They clearly have the strategic initiative, they don’t mind waiting a few more years until US definitively abandons the Afghan government and then they’ll likely re-establish themselves as the rulers of the country or a major portion of it. The Taliban will treat any and all concessions to them just like the Iranians treated Obama’s nuclear “deal” – a tool to consolidate their position, gain financially and to remove any military threat from the players you listed from the equation.

      • Jim__L

        Wasn’t it called “peace with honor” back in the 70’s?

        I think it was called a “stab in the back” earlier in the 20th century… Only this time, the army really was victorious, and the victory was thrown away for political reasons. About the only plus side here is Bibi’s position all along means his folk can’t be scapegoated.

        • Dale Fayda

          The army was victorious back in the 70’s too, both American and S. Vietnamese. The US forces haven’t lost a single engagement above battalion level and the S. Vietnamese repelled (2) conventional invasions by N. Vietnam in 1970 and in 1973. After Nixon’s resignation, Democrats captured both houses of Congress and promptly voted to cut off military aid to S. Vietnam. Of course, N. Vietnam’s ally, the Soviet Union did no such things and thus enabled North Vietnam to roll over the weakened and demoralized South Vietnamese army in 1975.

      • jeburke

        I agree — mostly. My point is that unless the US commits military to this struggle in the long run, which Obama plainly will not do, Afghanistan is a lost cause. So, the US might as well try to salvage something from the wreckage in the coming year. Of course, as I said, Obama has no plan to do this either.

  • iconoclast

    I think Obama’s goal is merely to get out of office and start living the big life as a former POTUS, that’s all. Dealing with the AGW-caused Taliban is above his paygrade.

    • Andrew Allison

      AGW also causes warts.

      • Jim__L

        AGW caused Windows 8.

  • Andrew Allison

    Another triumph of Obama’s foreign policy [sarc]. Come to think of it, perhaps coherent policy of any kind is foreign to this legend in his own mind.

  • Fat_Man

    The Taliban are an arm of the Pakistani Military. Obama should evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan and and start bombing Pakistan.

  • Jim__L

    Well, if people can’t trust Obama’s word to remove troops when he says he will, that’s an improvement.

    It’s sad that it’s come to that.

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