Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Kabul control slips in Afghanistan amid US talks with Taliban

Published 11:22 pm | January 31, 2019

The Kabul government is steadily losing its grip over parts of Afghanistan even as American forces intensify
their air campaign against insurgent groups, a US government watchdog said Thursday.

The latest grim assessment of Afghanistan’s security situation comes as the
US pursues talks with the Taliban and urgently seeks a way out of the 17-year

Numbers provided by Resolute Support, the US-led NATO mission in
Afghanistan, show that as of October 31, only 63.5 percent of Afghans are
living in areas controlled or influenced by the Kabul government — down from
65.2 percent the previous quarter.

According to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction (SIGAR), which compiled the data, the decrease came as Kabul’s
control or influence over Afghan districts dropped.

SIGAR said just 53.8 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in
government hands, and experts on Afghanistan say the number is lower still.
Instead of looking at population metrics, the Pentagon in a response to SIGAR
said it is more important to “focus on the principal goal of the strategy of
concluding the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the
United States.”

Officials pointed to ongoing talks between the Taliban and US special envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad, who this week said he had sealed the outlines of a peace

– Unsustainable losses –

Highlighting the ongoing security crisis, SIGAR said the US has
dramatically increased air strikes, dropping 6,823 bombs in the first 11
months of 2018.

The “figure was already 56 percent higher than the total number of
munitions released in 2017 (4,361), and is more than five times the total in
2016,” SIGAR said in its report.

Meanwhile, the strength of Afghan security forces has continued to dwindle,
and currently stands at 308,693 personnel. That means only 87.7 percent of
positions are filled, the lowest level since January 2015.

Afghan forces have suffered staggering losses since they assumed
responsibility for their country’s security four years ago.

President Ashraf Ghani last week said 45,000 security forces have been
killed since he took office in September 2014.

NATO combat forces pulled out at the end of that year, and observers say
the losses may not be sustainable.

– Surrender? –

Officials say President Donald Trump has decided to pull half of America’s
forces from Afghanistan. The Pentagon insisted the numbers in SIGAR’s report
do not necessarily reflect poorly on his strategy to find an end to the

“Measures of population control are not indicative of effectiveness of the
South Asia strategy or of progress toward security and stability in
Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said, according to SIGAR.

Khalilzad has provided few specifics about a potential deal with the
Taliban, but the militants are believed to have promised not to provide
shelter again to foreign extremists.

However, the Taliban have so far refused another key US demand — that they
talk to the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which the
insurgents view as American “puppets.”

Ghani has warned against rushing into a deal, citing violence following the
Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday that he saw “some
very encouraging possibilities” in Khalilzad’s negotiations.

“But we need to give them time and space,” Shanahan said.

Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to multiple nations including
Afghanistan, said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post that US
negotiations with the Taliban are akin to “surrender.”

“The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are
gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of
them,” Crocker wrote.


Matched Content

দৈনিক সময় সংবাদ ২৪ ডট কম সংবাদের কোনো সংবাদ, তথ্য, ছবি,আলোকচত্রি, ভিডিওচিত্র, অডিও কনটেন্ট কপিরাইট আইনে র্পূব অনুমতি ছাড়া ব্যবহার করা সর্ম্পূণ বেআইনি। সামাজিক যোগাযোগ মাধ্যমে যে কোন কমেন্সের জন্য কর্তৃপক্ষ দায়ী নয়।