The Wash Post reports:
With control of — or a significant presence in — roughly 30 percent of districts across the nation, according to Western and Afghan officials, the Taliban now holds more territory than in any year since 2001, when the puritanical Islamists were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks….
As of last month, about 7,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed this year, with 12,000 injured, a 26 percent increase over the total number of dead and wounded in all of 2014, said a Western official with access to the most recent NATO statistics. Attrition rates are soaring. Deserters and injured Afghan soldiers say they are fighting a more sophisticated and well-armed insurgency than they have seen in years.
And then there's this worrying sort of line about continued U.S. involvement:
Afghans, including senior military officials, no longer even pretend that they can fight the Taliban effectively on their own….
As the fighting intensifies, the stakes are growing higher for the United States in its longest war. "I will not allow Helmand to fall," [Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan] told the Afghan officials in the recent meeting with the Afghan National Security Council. "But I can't make you fight. You've got to want it more than we do."
The U.S. action in Afghanistan is officially the nation's longest war. It is also shaping up as one of our least successful ones, too.
Note also that the Taliban gains are coming even as its factions are engaging in internecine warfare since the movement's founder, Mohammad Omar, died two years ago.
Anyone know the presidential candidates' views on Afghanistan? Are we committed to stay there forever and if so, to what end?
This much is known: As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was a strong supporter of the 2009 "Afghan surge," which led to an increase of 30,000 troops and utterly failed in its stated goal of stopping Taliban momentum. Indeed, at the end of the surge in 2012, the Taliban was inflicting nearly three times as many casaulties as it had been in 2009.
Even worse, the surge's latent justification—it would allow America to declare victory and withdraw—never materialized either.
Instead, earlier this year, Barack Obama announced plans to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan even when his presidency came to an end. This is something that Clinton also supported, explaining:
"We have invested a lot of blood and a lot of treasure in trying to help that country and we can't afford for it to become an outpost of the Taliban and ISIS one more time, threatening us, threatening the larger world," Clinton said.
It will be interesting to see how such a statement squares first with Democratic primary voters and then folks in the general election. As Robert Golen-Vilella writes at The National Interest,
The 2009 decision to send thousands of additional troops and commit billions more dollars to Afghanistan was one of the most consequential foreign-policy decisions of President Obama's first term in office. It also might have been his biggest foreign-policy mistake. The administration never had a plausible theory for how its eighteen-month surge would realistically lead to a meaningfully better long-term outcome for the country.
Lord knows virtually all of the GOP presidential candidates are godawful on foreign policy. Their basic shtick, which is utterly devoid of reference to reality, is to accuse Obama and the Democrats broadly of being weak and seeking to withdraw from world militarily (as if). It would be immensely useful to see the candidates in both major parties explain not just what they plan to do regarding Afghanistan and what larger aims and goals they expect to achieve by keeping U.S. troops stationed there forever and ever.