Afghans question US worth in Taliban fight as Pentagon watchdog admits ‘lack of progress’

Afghans question US worth in Taliban fight as Pentagon watchdog admits ‘lack of progress’
Despite committing additional resources to Afghanistan, US troops and local security forces have made little inroads against the Taliban. Some Afghan lawmakers are questioning whether the country needs US assistance at all.

A report to Congress prepared by the Pentagon’s inspector general challenges an earlier assessment of the US military that the latest increase of support to the Afghan national security forces helped turn the corner and gain momentum against the militant movement. Over the first quarter of 2018 the Taliban’s threat has not greatly diminished.

“The Taliban continued to hold territory and launched devastating terrorist attacks in Kabul and across the country,” Glenn Fine, the deputy Pentagon inspector general, wrote in an introductory note to the report, which was released on Monday.

The Trump administration changed the US Afghanistan policy in August last year, deploying 3,000 additional troops to the country. Yet Kabul is far from achieving the benchmark of controlling areas where at least 80 percent of the Afghan population lives, as set out by Washington. As of the end of January, the figure stood at 65 percent, compared to 64 percent last quarter, the report said. There were few changes in control over territory too, with the Taliban controlling or contesting almost half of Afghanistan.

The listed strength of the Afghan security troops, the ANDSF, has dropped in January to 313,728, down from 331,708 a year earlier, the report said. The estimated number of actual troops is 11 percent below the target of 352,000 set by the Afghan government, reflecting the recruitment difficulties it faces.

Amid the stalemate in the 17-year-long war, some politicians in Kabul are saying the support it gets from the US is not enough. Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, first deputy speaker of the upper chamber of the Afghan parliament, said on Monday that Kabul should change the security agreement with the US, TOLO news reported.

“What have we achieved from this security agreement? Nothing, except notoriety,” agreed senator Zalmai Zabuli.

“The foreign forces in Afghanistan have not fulfilled their commitments,” argued senator Mohammad Hanif Hanifi.

In a fresh example of failing security in Afghanistan, 16 people were reported killed and dozens injured on Tuesday after a suspected car bomb explosion in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. And on Monday night clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces in the Ghazni province left seven officers killed.

The US mission in Afghanistan may soon receive a new commander, Reuters said on Tuesday. Army Lieutenant General Scott Miller would replace Army General John ‘Mick’ Nicholson in the position in a matter of months, sources in the Pentagon told the agency.

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