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America's new strategy for Afghanistan

21 February 2016

By Dr Hameedullah Zabuli

For many people around the world, New Year is a time to reflect on the past and to prepare for and predict the future.

And so we saw Michael Morell – former CIA chief – reflecting and making such predictions last week. He admitted that the Taliban had made major geopolitical gains throughout Afghanistan and he also stated that he expected further major gains going forward. According to him ‘they control more territory than they have in a number of years'.

Morell's comments were an acute reflection of the security situation in Afghanistan, unencumbered by political niceties. The Pentagon's recent report on the security situation of Afghanistan also offered similar reflections stating that in ‘the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher ANDSF and Taliban casualties' with the insurgents remaining ‘active in their traditional strongholds while creating a sense of insecurity in parts of the country'.

It continued that ‘the insurgents are improving in their ability to find and exploit ANDSF vulnerabilities, making the security situation still fragile in key areas and at risk of deterioration in other places'.

While the Pentagon report was couched in political jargon and ventured into optimism yet its main conclusion was crystal clear – the Islamic Emirate is hitting back and it is hitting back hard.

As a result of Islamic Emirate's gains Obama, in usual fashion, had to renege on yet another promise he made to the American people. Instead of ending all troop involvement in Afghanistan by the time he leaves office, he will instead maintain a US troop presence of 9,800 through to the end of 2016. Also – for 2017 – instead of the original drawdown to a Kabul-only US military presence, under the adjusted plan, US troops will maintain a 5,500 troop presence in Kabul and Bagram, with limited presence in the east and south of Afghanistan.

While in the initial withdrawal plan announced by Obama, US troops were to be reduced to 1,000 by the end of 2016, the indications coming from the Pentagon and its generals is that the above adjusted plan will likely also be altered. In likelihood the troop levels for 2017 will be altered with a larger contingent remaining behind for the coming year.

The pace of Islamic Emirate's victories has completely disoriented America's strategy planners. Their expectations for 2016 look very much different to what they initially envisioned. While their official pronouncements betray a sense of optimism, with unfounded claims that ‘the ANDSF continue to deny the Taliban population centers and strategic ground', they are not blind to the fact that the Taliban has wrested large parts of the country from the Kabul regime and are making significant gains daily.

The soldiers of Islamic Emirate have expanded their reach from Badakhshan to Herat, and from Jowzjan to Kandahar. Even by the foreigners' conservative estimates the Islamic Emirate controls or contests at least fourth of the official districts. The momentum of the Emirate's victories bears an ill omen for America in 2016.

If the current course of events continues it is likely that America will be forced to change its strategy over and over again and it is very likely that by the time Obama leaves office, he will leave America even more deeply embroiled in this conflict than when he first inherited it.

©  EsinIslam.Com

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