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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Affghanistan: the Taliban launches broad, coordinated offensive in nine northern districts.

Link: Taliban offensive in northern Afghanistan.

I can't recall the last time I devoted an entire post to Afghanistan.  I've been living in a cycle of world events that includes only Syria, Iraq, Iran and Ukraine.  I admit its nice to focus on a different topic, but the Taliban, who are responsible for the relocation of my attention, won't be receiving a thank you card.  In 2011 President Obama ordered the withdrawal of 10,000 U.S. troops, and another 23,000 were removed in 2012.  The United States continues to keep 10,000 mostly Special Forces troops in country, in an effort to both train and bolster the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  Prior to 2011, the Taliban had for the most part lost its authority in Afghanistan.  Even in areas traditionally loyal to the Taliban, the government was making inroads building schools and introducing technology.  There was hope that the Taliban was gone for good, and with the Taliban goes Al-Qaeda.  Not surprisingly, the Taliban still existed, but was hunkered down, patiently waiting for the opportunity to return.  The reality is, if the Taliban had been obliged to stay in hibernation for an extended period of time, and some of the more grizzled, fanatical leaders had died, the organization itself very well may have disappeared.  But the extremists know us all too well, as was demonstrated in the deserts of Western Iraq at about the same time.  The Taliban understood that a political change had occurred in Washington DC, and the new man in charge wanted to pull the U.S. military out of Afghanistan as quickly as politically expedient.  Their job was to be patient, because without a doubt, the ANSF would eventually collapse, as they had in the past.  Once the U.S. began withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Taliban slowly began to re-emerge.  The more troops withdrawn, the more attacks by the Taliban on Afghan military or government targets.  Of course, the withdrawal in Iraq was much more precipitous; the Iraqi Army was in no way ready to take the field in battle.  This information wasn't confidential, and ISIS immediately took advantage by crossing into the western deserts of Iraq from Syria, and beginning an offensive that would take them to the gates of Tikrit.  The rejuvenation of the Taliban has taken a bit more time, as U.S. and NATO forces continue to provide support to the ANSF.

The recent military advances by the Taliban involve nine northern provinces of Afghanistan, and comes on the heels of the occupation of Kunduz.  Its fascinating how some of the events in Iraq seem to mirror events in Afghanistan.  Just as the Iraqi forces attempted to retake Ramadi bit by bit after it initially fell to ISIS, the ANSF are trying to regain Kunduz one neighborhood at a time.  And just as ISIS took advantage of the focus on Ramadi to expand their presence to areas north, south, and east of Baghdad, the Taliban is using the capture of Kunduz as a jumping-off point for further offensive activity in northern Afghanistan.  The re-emergence of the Taliban is no great surprise, and was discussed as a real possibility on a regular basis in the media.  Frankly speaking, their strength and level of organization and military sophistication are a bit of a surprise to us.  The amount of territory involved in this broad attack is very discouraging, and brings into question the long-term security of the capital city.  Once before, President Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan; would he consider doing so, this late in his term?  Don't hold your breath.  What happens in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and even sad-and-forgotten Ukraine, will involve the U.S. only as long as diplomacy is involved.  The U.S. may continue the Coalition Air Campaign, but that is as far as it goes.  Until a new president is sworn in, the U.S. will not involve ground forces in a foreign conflict.  

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