Tags: Afghanistan | Al-Qaida | Barack Obama | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | War on Terrorism | Taliban

Taliban Strength, Afghan Army Failures Spur Growing US Role

By    |   Monday, 24 November 2014 04:16 PM

As U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, there are mounting questions about the ability of Afghan security forces to prevent jihadist forces from dominating the country.

U.S. officials said late Friday that President Barack Obama has approved guidelines allowing the U.S. military to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous instructions limiting the military to carrying out counterterror operations against al-Qaida after this year.

Obama's decision to allow the Pentagon to target the Taliban will enable the military to conduct air support for Afghan military operations when needed, the officials said.

The situation in parts of Kapisa province, about one hour's drive from Kabul, illustrates the struggle Afghan government forces face in attempting to fend off the Taliban.

"It is the government that operates in the shadows, following the dictates of the Taliban in order to stay alive," The New York Times reported. "In the absence of international troops or their air support, the Taliban have eclipsed the legitimacy of government forces there and in several other parts of the country."

Afghan soldiers in the district are effectively confined to their bases 23 hours a day. They are allowed out for one hour a day, at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow the soldiers to visit a local bazaar so long as they come unarmed.

Although police in the province have been working with the United States and with Afghan special forces to drive out the jihadists, the counterinsurgency efforts have been hampered by the weak performance of the Afghan military.

There are suspicions that the Taliban have infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan army, and U.S. troops in the area have come under attack by Afghan forces. In February, one of those insider attacks killed two U.S. Special Operations soldiers and wounded four others.

Earlier this year, U.S. Special Forces halted joint operations with main Afghan army units in the southern part of Kapisa.

Since then, the Americans have focused on working with local police, who have proven to be much more dependable.

Today, according to the province's police chief, the insurgents are able to mass their forces in larger numbers than they were six months ago.

The Taliban recently launched a simultaneous attack on a local police station and the office of a district governor in Kapisa. A Times reporter on the scene described how Afghan forces lobbed grenades and fired rockets at the jihadists.

But the great majority of the government forces on the scene refused to pursue the terrorists into a nearby valley a key part of any successful counterinsurgency operation.

"Why are [government forces] fighting here? They can't fight them face to face," a villager said as he crouched down in an effort to protect his 3-year-old grandson from the crossfire.

It is situations like that in Kapisa which have driven the U.S. military to press Obama to approve a more aggressive U.S. military role in Afghanistan after this year.

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As U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, there are mounting questions about the ability of Afghan security forces to prevent jihadist forces from dominating the country.
Taliban, Afghan, Afghanistan, Barack Obama, U.S. Army
Monday, 24 November 2014 04:16 PM
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