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.