The fall of Kunduz last week underscores the difficulties the Afghan National Army is having on its own.
By Daniel R. DePetris
October 05, 2015
The war in Afghanistan, nearly fourteen years in the making, is by the far the longest U.S. military engagement in the nation’s history. The campaign against the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Haqqani Network will outlast two U.S. presidential administrations and is very likely to continue even after the U.S. and the NATO coalition withdraw the remainder of their troops, due by the end of 2016. And yet, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in wartime spending, several emergency supplemental bills passed by the U.S. Congress, 2,364 U.S. troops killed in action and tens of thousands of additional troops having sustained serious wartime injuries, Afghanistan is still very much a country at war.
This reality was made very much clear last week when the Taliban took Kunduz, a key city in northern Afghanistan. Afghan government forces have since taken back control of most of the city, but the fact that it fell to the Taliban was a shock.
It should not have been: The Taliban – a movement that takes advantage of the Afghan government’s weaknesses by appealing to a small segment of the Afghan population –remains dynamic and adaptive in its recruitment and its tactics on the battlefield. Vast segments of the Afghan countryside, far away from the population centers that are safeguarded by the Afghan national security forces, are either in de-facto control of Taliban elements or susceptible to Taliban influence. Those same remote areas of the Afghan countryside also happen to primary recruiting and training grounds for other militant groups who are seeking to overthrow the government of President Ashraf Ghani — including a publicized camp administered by a contingent of the Islamic State in Logar province.