Tag-team trouble: ‘Taliban commanders swearing allegiance to ISIS in Afghanistan’

© Lucas Jackson
US troops in Afghanistan are in a train-and-advise role, but increasingly they’re having to get more into combat situations, and they are not equipped for that, Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official told RT America’s Simone Del Rosario.

The war in Afghanistan has cost the US hundreds of lives and billions of taxpayers’ dollars all with promises to bring peace to the country and prevent another 9/11 attack. Despite all of the US government’s efforts to fight the war on terror, the Taliban continues to dominate many regions in Afghanistan. 

RT: There is concern that the Afghan government could fall by October creating a crisis for security in the region. Is that correct? 

Michael Maloof: That is correct, that is because we have too few US train-and-advise troops in there to give them that kind of training, limited resources, so that when Afghan forces go into a particular area, let’s say in Helmand Province, the Taliban tactically then will hit up in Kunduz up in the Northern Province. Those forces, because there are so few of them, have to leave the area that they have secured… and as a consequence the Taliban comes around and refills that void. The US troops who are left there are in a train-and-advise role, but increasingly they’re having to get more into a combat role, and they are not equipped for that. So the areas that they hold are very, very limited and Taliban realizes it. 

I also think that there is like a tag-team effort that is going on between the Taliban and ISIS now. ISIS occupies Nangarhar, which is a province in the eastern portion of Afghanistan. It is right next to the province called Kabul, where the capital is located – of Kabul. In fact that region has been the source of ISIS fighters going into Kabul, attacking inside the capital itself, which happened just last month.

So it is almost like a tag-team, as I said, between Taliban, a number of whose commanders are now swearing allegiance to ISIS. There are just not enough Afghan security forces to secure the area, hold it, and then be able to hit another area. It goes against any kind of counter insurgency strategy that we might have. As a consequence we are involved right now in an ‘operational maryah’ as it is called by the Taliban. This is where they step up the tempo for increased attacks, especially during the summer. And the attacks are probably going to reach a crescendo when the government of Afghanistan itself is about ready to go into a political crisis of its own. 

This is a prescription, if you will, for disaster, if the government basically falls. And that is a potential that some analysts are suggesting could occur, because there are a number of constitutional reforms that the government has to maintain. The Taliban know this. All they have to do is wait it out. And as a consequence if the government falls that creates even more crisis. If it comes in October, just before the November elections, that really portends a crisis right at the doorstep of our own [US] presidential elections. 

RT: The US has been withdrawing troops for a number of years now, so have its allies. Obama had said that the US had achieved its central objective in Afghanistan and that is why we were done and pulling out. Did we really? 

MM: No, we have not. In fact, I’ve had US Intel folks within the country tell me that if US pulls out any more Kabul could fall within three days from a military attack by the Taliban. The Taliban and ISIS have already demonstrated that they can attack the capital already.

The US troops that are there are only there in an advisory role, not in a combat role, and that limits their capabilities. They’re spread sporadically; they have Special Forces in very isolated areas. There is no way the US troops can marshal the forces to impede the Taliban’s advances.

RT: A lot of people argue about whether we should have been there in the first place. Critics say that we focus too much on a centralized government, not enough on regional, local governments, to allow power at smaller levels, so that they can control the regions. What do you make of that argument? 

MM: Well, it would’ve been good right after we kicked out the Taliban in October 2001, but now those areas have been filled by the political vacuum that has been created by the absence of troops. There is no way to secure it. The Taliban is occupying many of those areas. There are in many of the provinces now – Jalalabad and Helmand Province, which is very, very serious, and there is no way we can clean any of that out and create those independent little areas that they talked about – autonomous areas.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.