The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.
In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.
Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.
“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.
But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”
The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.
Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.
“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.
Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.
US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.
Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.
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