Afghan government only controls 57% of the country’s territory. A year ago, the Kabul government controlled 72% of Afghanistan.
Two of the most senior senators in the US Congress have called on the Trump administration to fight the insurgency threat to Afghanistan with the same urgency as its war against Daesh terrorism in the Middle East and the world.
If the US involvement in Afghanistan is not intensified the current stalemate in the Afghan government’s battle against the Taliban and other terror groups could “slide into failure”, warned senators John McCain, chairman of the US senate’s armed services committee Lindsay Graham, a member of the same committee.
In an opinion article at the Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the US, the senators pointed out that the current Afghan government only controls 57% of the country’s territory. A year ago, the Kabul government controlled 72% of Afghanistan.
“This month, two simultaneous suicide attacks by the Taliban in Kabul killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 40. In northern Afghanistan, the Taliban overran another district. These setbacks came on the heels of disturbing losses across the country,” the senators wrote. (They penned the article prior to the recent Daesh attack on a military hospital in Kabul in which more than 50 people were killed).
McCain and Lindsay expressed appreciation for the Afghan security forces role in fighting terrorism.
“Make no mistake: Afghans are fighting ferociously to defend their country from our common enemies. At the same time, we must recognize that the United States is still at war in Afghanistan against the terrorist enemies who attacked our nation on Sept. 11 and their ideological heirs. We must act accordingly.”
The senators voiced concern over the US role in Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, in recent years, we have tied the hands of our military in Afghanistan. Instead of trying to win, we have settled for just trying not to lose.
“Time and time again, we saw troop withdrawals that seemed to have more to do with U.S. politics than conditions on the ground. The fixation with “force management levels” in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq and Syria, seemed more about measuring troop counts than measuring success,” they wrote.
They decried restriction on the US forces in Afghanistan.
“Until last summer, our military was prohibited from targeting the Taliban, except in the most extreme circumstances, taking the pressure off the militants and allowing them to rebuild and re-attack. Indeed, while we were fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, authorities in Afghanistan were so restrictive that it took an entire year before U.S. forces were finally given authority to strike the group’s fighters in Afghanistan.”
McCain and Lindsay warned that the risk to U.S. and Afghan forces has only grown worse as the terrorist threat has intensified.
“The Taliban has grown more lethal, expanded its territorial control and inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces. And it is reportedly doing so with help from Iran and Russia, who want nothing more than to see the United States fail in Afghanistan.”
They write that the Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani networks continue to threaten US interests in Afghanistan and beyond, adding that Daesh “is trying to carve out another haven from which it can plan and execute attacks.”
With reference to Pakistan’s role in the region the senators wrote U.S. efforts to confront these terrorist threats “are continually frustrated by terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan used to attack across its border and kill U.S. forces.” They also expressed concern over the deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, say it was a contributing factor to the escalating treat to both the US and Afghanistan.
They point out that the US has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, adding that 2000 US troops and 1000 NATO soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan in that period.
“Weary as some Americans may be of this long conflict, it is imperative that we see our mission through to success.”