The military intelligence agency of the Pentagon has warned that the US might lose all its gains in Afghanistan if it does not make drastic changes to its war tactics in the country. The agency has suggested that unless the U.S. does not place its military advisers and experts closer to the battle field in the country, chances of consolidating, or even holding, its gains are slim.
Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, gave this assessment recently as the Trump administration is pondering a decision to send more troops to the war torn country. Also, recent visits by high level military officials from Washington to Kabul suggest that the Trump administration might also be looking into changing the US policy in Afghanistan.
Stewart made his latest assessment in a testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and claimed that during his recent visit to Afghanistan, he confirmed the deadly stalemate that exists between the government in Kabul and the Taliban. He said, “(if the stalemate) Left unchecked, that stalemate will deteriorate in the favour of the belligerents,”, referring to the Taliban “So, we have to do something very different than what we have been doing in the past” he concluded.
He also talked about the possibility of increasing the number of troops and advisers in Afghanistan, and suggested that for any success in the war, the advisers needed to be placed on the battle front. If such changes are not made, Stewart said, “the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains we’ve invested in over the last several years.”
Dan Coats, another top intelligence official, who was also testifying alongside Stewart, sounded similar reservations. “Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Coats said, adding, “Afghan security forces performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertion, poor logistics support and weak leadership.”
According to the US source and the Pentagon there are about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, where about one-quarter of whom are special operations forces targeting extremist groups, including the new threat of IS in the country.
Recently, Gen. John Nicholson, US commander in Kabul, said that he needed about 3,000 more US and NATO troops in order to overcome the current gaps in various military training and advisory capabilities.
The current risk assessment comes on the back of major Taliban attacks against the foreign and domestic forces; most prominent of them being the Mazar Sharif attack killing dozens of soldiers.
On the other hand, efforts are also underway by regional stakeholders such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China to mediate a peace process between the Taliban and the Unity Government in Kabul. Yet recent attacks by the Taliban suggest that such negotiation might not come to fruition due to Taliban aggressive and violent rhetoric.
Even with the current bad-blood brewing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, Kabul’s envoy to Islamabad, recently said that no country is better suited to establish peace in his country than Pakistan. Such statements also affirm the notion that for any possibility of a negotiated in Afghanistan, regional stakeholders could have to play a major, and Kabul would need to recognise such a role.