Jan 15 2015
American military interventions in recent times — be these in Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, or Iraq — have undermined regional stability and left deep scars on the body politic of these countries. The society and the body politic of America have felt the tremors of these misadventures. The American military intervention in Afghanistan, code-named “Operation Enduring Freedom”, commenced in the aftermath of 9/11. Its combat role ended 13 years later on December 31, 2014. The Americans tried to win “Operation Enduring Freedom” cheaply, outsourcing many operations to the erstwhile Northern Alliance. Adversaries comprising the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaida, thousands of Islamic radicals from the Arab world, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China’s Xinjiang province and ISI-linked Pakistani terrorist groups escaped across the Durand Line, to safe havens under ISI protection, in Pakistan.
The US has paid a heavy price for this folly. Some 2,200 of its soldiers were killed in combat, suffering heavy losses in the last four years after it became evident that it was pulling out. As the US was winding down its military presence and transferring combat responsibilities to the Afghan National Army (ANA), an emboldened Taliban and its Chechen, Uzbek, Uighur and Turkmen allies have emerged from their Pakistani safe havens and moved northwards. In subsequent fighting 4,600 Afghan soldiers were killed in combat in 2014 alone. The Afghan army cannot obviously afford such heavy casualties continuously, if morale is to be sustained. Its available tactical air support and air transport infrastructure are woefully inadequate. The Afghans do not have air assets which were available to the NATO forces.
Apart from what is happening in southern Afghanistan, Taliban-affiliated groups are now increasing their activities in northern Afghanistan, along its borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China's Xinjiang province. Afghanistan’s northern provinces like Kunduz, Faryab and Takhar have seen increased attacks by the Taliban allies, from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. These Central Asian countries are getting increasingly concerned about the security situation along their borders. American forces are scheduled to be halved in 2015 and reduced to a token presence, just sufficient to protect American diplomatic missions by the end of 2016. Not surprisingly, President Ashraf Ghani has asked the US to review its withdrawal schedule.