Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Afghanistan 2017 – April 2021
CIA World Factbook – Afghanistan
U.S. Policy in Afghanistan:
Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains (May 2017)
Afghanistan 2010 – 2017
The Devastating Paradox of Pakistan
How Afghanistan’s neighbor cultivated American dependency
while subverting American policy
The U.S. Failed Thousands Who Risked
Everything in Iraq and Afghanistan (11/09/18)
Biden’s Afghan Pullout Is a Victory for Pakistan. But at What Cost?
By Mujib Mashal, Salman Masood and
(NYT) Pakistan’s military stayed allied to both the Americans and Taliban. But now the country may face intensified extremism at home as a result of a perceived Taliban victory. A return of the Taliban to some form of power would dial the clock back to a time when Pakistan’s military played gatekeeper to Afghanistan, perpetually working to block the influence of its archenemy, India.
But the Pakistani military’s sheltering of the Taliban insurgency over the past two decades — doggedly pursuing a narrowly defined geopolitical victory next door — risks another wave of disruption at home. Pakistan is a fragile, nuclear-armed state already reeling from a crashed economy, waves of social unrest, agitation by oppressed minorities and a percolating Islamic militancy of its own that it is struggling to contain.
If Afghanistan descends into chaos, Pakistanis are bound to feel the burden again just as they did after Afghanistan disintegrated in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal. Millions of Afghan refugees crossed the porous border to seek relative safety in Pakistan’s cities and towns.
And more: A Taliban return to power, either through a civil war or through a peace deal that gives them a share of power, would embolden the extremist movements in Pakistan that share the same source of ideological mentorship in the thousands of religious seminaries spread across Pakistan. Those groups have shown no hesitation in antagonizing the country’s government.
Biden to Withdraw All Combat Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11
(NYT) After years of arguing against an extended military presence in Afghanistan, President Biden is doing things his way, with the deadline for withdrawal set for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
The war was launched with widespread international support — but it became the same long, bloody, unpopular slog that forced the British to withdraw from Afghanistan in the 19th century and the Soviet Union to retreat in the 20th.
Nearly 2,400 American troops have died in Afghanistan in a conflict that has cost about $2 trillion. Mr. Biden’s Democratic supporters in Congress praised the withdrawal, even as Republicans said it would risk American security.
Damned either way, Biden opts out of Afghanistan as US tires of ‘forever wars’
Analysis: Despite warnings not enough has been done to stablise the country, the president has decided to set aside the rule ‘if you break it, you fix it’
(The Guardian) Joe Biden has decided that 20 years is enough for America’s longest war, and has ordered the remaining troops out no matter what happens between now and September.
Biden’s withdrawal is one area of continuity with his predecessor, although unlike Donald Trump, this administration consulted the Afghans, US allies and its own agencies before announcing the decision. But both presidents were responding to a national weariness of “forever wars”.
Bloomberg Politics: The Taliban remain
The Taliban are betting they can turn back time.
The hardline Islamic group is arguably more powerful in Afghanistan than at any time since it was ousted in 2001 given the territory it controls, and despite almost $1 trillion in spending by the U.S. on the country. And it is showing every sign it is ready to re-assert control.
While it struck an agreement during Donald Trump’s presidency to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Taliban has not severed ties with al-Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups and refuses to negotiate seriously with the Afghan government.
It pulled out of a U.S.-sponsored peace summit due to begin this month because Biden is allowing troops to remain beyond the May 1 deadline negotiated with his predecessor.
In Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani is looking increasingly isolated. The U.S. wants him to include the Taliban in a transitional government, a prospect that most ordinary Afghans oppose. They fear two decades of hard-fought progress for women — and the country at large — will be eroded.
Afghans Wonder ‘What About Us?’ as U.S. Troops Prepare to Withdraw
(NYT) Many Afghans fear that without the umbrella of American protection, the country will be unable to preserve its modest gains toward democracy and women’s rights.
Has The Taliban Changed? Afghans Living Under Militant Group Say It Still Rules Using Fear, Brutality
Afghans who currently live under Taliban control say the militant group remains rooted in its extremist interpretation of Islam and rules using fear and barbarity.
They also say the Taliban imposes many of the repressive laws and retrograde policies that defined its 1996-2001 rule. Women are still banned from working outside the home, for example; free speech is forbidden in areas it controls, and public beatings and executions are commonplace.
Biden Declares May 1 Deadline To Be Out of Afghanistan ‘Hard to Meet
(US Defense Dept) President Joe Biden said the upcoming May 1 deadline to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan will be “hard to meet,” during his first press conference today since taking office.
The president cited “tactical reasons” for the delay, but emphasized it was not his intention “to stay there a long time.”
Stay, go, delay: Joe Biden is trapped and has no good choices in Afghanistan
The president has inherited an unpopular war, and whatever he decides to do about it will be fraught with danger
Biden Administration To Review Afghan Peace Deal With Taliban
The United States intends to review an agreement reached with the Taliban last year in order to determine if the militant group is meeting its commitments under the Afghan peace accord.
Targeted Killings Are Terrorizing Afghans. And No One Is Claiming Them.
Most officials believe the Taliban are behind the attacks on civil leaders, but others fear that factions are using chaos as a cover to settle scores, in an echo of Afghanistan’s past civil war.
What to Know as Troubled Afghan Peace Talks Enter a New Phase
The Afghan government and the Taliban are set to continue negotiations toward a cease-fire in early January, but several fundamental issues stand in the way of progress.
The most recent round of discussions, which began in September, have been riddled with bureaucratic hangups and months-long debates over minor issues.
And though those talks resulted in an agreement on the principles and procedures that will guide the next round of peace negotiations, they came with a price. While the two sides met in Doha, Qatar, bloodletting on battlefields and in Afghan cities surged.
Attack on Kabul University by Isis gunmen leaves 22 dead
Afghan government declares day of mourning after incident in which attackers shot dead
(The Guardian) On Monday evening, Isis took responsibility for the attack, claiming it had targeted a “graduation gathering for judges and investigators of the apostate Afghan government”. It named two men as responsible.
At least 22 people were killed and 22 wounded after Islamic State-affiliated gunmen stormed Kabul University as it was hosting a book fair attended by Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan, taking hostages and fighting gun battles with security forces for more than five hours.
… Violence has been relentless in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban and a government-appointed negotiating team discuss the peace agreement to end more than four decades of war in the country. Progress in the talks in Doha has been painfully slow and despite repeated demands for a reduction in violence, it has continued unabated.
Emboldened on an international stage, the Taliban begins first official peace talks with the Afghan government
(WaPo) DOHA, Qatar — After nearly 20 years of conflict, the Afghan government came face to face with Taliban leaders beneath ornate chandeliers in a grand ballroom Saturday to begin what many expect will be intensely difficult negotiations to shape Afghanistan’s future..
The United Nations on Sunday released a special report expressing concerns over what it called recent “deliberate attacks” against health care workers and facilities in Afghanistan during the coronavirus pandemic. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, said it had documented 12 deliberate acts of violence between March 11 to May 23, and that these attacks constitute war crimes.
A planned $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan would come from funds for Afghan security forces, according to three U.S. sources, a step experts said would undercut both Kabul’s ability to fight the Taliban and its leverage to negotiate a peace deal with them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the reduction on March 23 and threatened to slash the same amount next year to try to force Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah to end a feud that has helped stall U.S.-led peace-making efforts in Afghanistan.
Taliban warn deal with US in Afghanistan near breaking point
US military in Afghanistan rejects Taliban claim, saying it had upheld the military terms of the agreement.
The Taliban has said the deal with the United States aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan was nearing a breaking point, accusing Washington of violations that included drone attacks on civilians, while also chastising the Afghan government for delaying the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners promised in the agreement. The Taliban said it had restricted attacks against Afghan security forces to rural outposts and had not attacked international forces or Afghan forces in cities or military installations.
Resolving the Ghani-Abdullah impasse in Afghanistan
John Allen and Michael E. O’Hanlon
(Brookings) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just returned from an emergency trip to Afghanistan. His mission there did not center on the war against the Taliban, the peace process with the Taliban, or even the global coronavirus pandemic. Rather, his visit was intended to resolve a major dilemma within the Afghan government itself—the fact that the Afghan government now exists in two versions in the aftermath of last fall’s disputed presidential elections. President Ashraf Ghani, the previous incumbent, claims to have won reelection by a comfortable margin, a result confirmed by the Independent Electoral Commission in Afghanistan. He held an inauguration ceremony earlier this month, attended by U.S. officials, to begin his second term. Simultaneously, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, now a three-time presidential runner-up at least according to official tallies, claimed victory in a vote that he said was fraudulent—and held his own inauguration.
… Pompeo, who stopped by Doha, Qatar, on his way home from Afghanistan to have an amicable conversation with Taliban negotiators, should be careful not to overdo his friendliness toward our longstanding adversary in this conflict, even as a tactic to pressure Ghani and Abdullah. But it remains true that the Taliban will benefit from any enduring weakening of the Afghan government that results from this impasse.
… A stronger, more inclusive, and more diverse negotiating team needs to pursue peace with the Taliban. Having such a broad group, which must also include prominent women, would also help drive home to the Taliban and its backers in places like Pakistan that a wide swath of Afghan political and civil society insists on certain basic protections in any future Afghanistan—like rights for women, minorities, and political dissidents. The Taliban will surely try to portray Ghani as a lackey of Washington and illegitimate leader of the nation. This narrative needs to be defeated, and in this the United States and international community must play a role. Thus, as many Afghans as possible must form a united front in pursuing the kind of country they all want in the future—and that the Taliban may not want.
Abdullah is an excellent choice to lead such a broader team representing Afghan political leaders, parties, Afghan women, and civil society
Taliban Ramp Up Attacks on Afghans After Trump Says ‘No Violence’
Deadly assaults against Afghan forces have increased since the U.S. and Taliban signed a deal to end their war. Afghans worry about the ambiguity of the Taliban’s promises.
The Kunduz attack came just hours after President Trump spoke on the phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader, who negotiated and signed the agreement with the Americans.
“We’ve agreed there’s no violence. We don’t want violence,” Mr. Trump said after the call. “We’ll see what happens.”
Trump speaks with Taliban leader, says they have ‘very good’ relationship
C. Uday Bhaskar: US-Taliban peace deal: Implications for India
the long term impact may not be as positive and conducive to equitable peace as is being envisioned. The light at the end of the Afghan tunnel alas, remains dim.
The preamble for this ‘deal’ is instructive and points to the political fragility inherent in the process, for it notes that the USA has entered into an agreement with an entity it does not formally recognize – the Afghan Taliban. Thus the formal document reads that this is an “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America February 29, 2020.”
… The quid pro with the Taliban is that the group will not attack the US and its “allies” and this is a formulation that does not apply to India. Hence the possibility that those elements adversarial to Indian interests could be encouraged to resort to terror-related activities against India remains high and here the traditional Pakistan-Taliban nexus is cause for concern.
Afghan conflict: Taliban to resume attacking local forces after deal with US
(BBC) The hard-line Islamist group had observed a “reduction in violence” in the week leading up to the agreement.
The deal included a commitment to hold peace talks with the Afghan government.
But the group’s spokesman said on Monday the talks would not go ahead if 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the government were not released.
Afghan peace deal hits first snag over prisoner releases
(Politico) Afghanistan’s president said Sunday that he will not free thousands of Taliban prisoners ahead of all-Afghan power-sharing talks set for next week, publicly disagreeing with a timetable for a speedy prisoner release laid out just a day earlier in a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement.
The U.S.-Taliban deal envisions the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan government ahead of talks between Afghan factions meant to begin March 10 in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The Taliban would release up to 1,000 prisoners.
And from Al Jazeera: Ghani said: “It is not in the authority of the United States to decide, they are only a facilitator”. Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Kabul, said: “What we are seeing now are actually all the problems that were existing before coming to the surface again today.” … The Taliban now controls or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since 2001 and has carried out near-daily attacks against military outposts throughout the country.
U.S. signs peace deal with Taliban agreeing to full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan
(WaPo) The United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal Saturday that calls for the full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan within 14 months — a turning point in an 18-year war that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The complete withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops is contingent on a guarantee from the Taliban that Afghan soil will not be used by terrorists with aims to attack the United States or its allies, according to a copy of the agreement released by the State Department as the signing was underway.
Afghan officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for excluding them from talks with the Taliban. Any significant withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country is expected to place increased pressure on Afghan government forces, whose casualty rates continue to rise.
On Thursday, a group of Republican lawmakers released a letter warning that the Taliban has “a history of extracting concessions in exchange for false assurances.”
The U.S. Once Wanted Peace in Afghanistan
Now it’s setting its sights much lower.
(The Atlantic) For George W. Bush, the goal was the destruction of al-Qaeda, the total defeat of the Taliban, and a “stable and free and peaceful” Afghanistan. For Barack Obama, it was a degraded Taliban that could be reasoned with but would have to renounce violence, respect women, and abide by the Afghan constitution. For Donald Trump, it was just a reduction in violence and a clear path to the door—the Afghans themselves would have to figure out the rest.
America’s responsibilities on the cusp of its peace deal with the Taliban
America can do things better this time. It has a chance to not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, when it left its covert war in Afghanistan with a vacuum and without a narrative. It can do so in two ways: with a clear narrative on the war and its deal with the Taliban, and with elements in the deal itself that can mitigate some of its negative repercussions.
A clear American narrative has been missing in the war, and now on the deal … Providing a narrative is the first part. America can fully reckon with the war — explain why its goals had to shift and where it missed a chance at victory, and mourn the loss of American and Afghan lives.
Second, America can highlight where the war succeeded: the gains in human rights and especially women’s rights since 2001, and the installation of a democracy in the country, however imperfect. It can also share what exactly it will do to safeguard the gains made in the last 18 years from the Taliban squandering them. This part has to do with the actual deal.
(Brookings) For all the discussion of the mechanics of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal — whether or not it will hold in the first phase that is currently underway, what phase two might look like, what sort of power-sharing arrangement might emerge between the Taliban and the Afghan government — the central question of negotiating with terrorists, and the cost of that, is not one this administration is grappling with in any significant way.
But this should be a central question: What is the cost of negotiating with the very terrorists who you once sought to defeat, those who are responsible for the loss of thousands of American lives and even more Afghan lives?
For Afghanistan watchers, there seems to be a recognition in narrow terms that giving the Taliban a say in government threatens gains made in women’s rights since 2001. Most observers have said that we should try to prevent these gains from being lost in whatever peace deal is signed. But how can that be guaranteed? The Taliban has never done anything other than terrorize women (and many men), and many Afghan women doubt that the Taliban will have any respect for girls’ schooling or the right of women to work, no matter what the deputy leader of the Taliban Sirajuddin Haqqani may write in the New York Times.
But while backsliding in women’s rights is at least discussed, there is little mention of the message this peace deal sends to extremists and to terrorist groups in Afghanistan and its region. The Taliban sees the deal as “America’s surrender.” That the United States was unable to defeat the Taliban will also be seen as a broader victory for the tactics and the ideology of jihadism, a dangerous thing in a region where jihadi ideologies have flourished for decades and where terrorist groups of many stripes — beyond the Afghan Taliban, ISIS, and al-Qaida, which pose the most direct danger to the United States and are thus of the most concern to the U.S. government — continue to exist.
America and the Taliban agree to wind down their long war
A week-long reduction in violence is due to be followed by an accord. Then the hard part begins
(The Economist) The long war that has scarred the land may be about to end. On February 21st America and the Taliban announced a week-long reduction in violence, with the promise of a formal accord at the end of it. “The agreement will happen. I think both sides want to sign a peace agreement,” explained Haji Gul Mohammad, an elder in Panjwayi.
America and the militants, having negotiated for some 18 months, are on the point of an odd sort of deal: a ceasefire that is not a full cessation of violence; and a peace agreement that does not include the Afghan government, at least not yet.
… Perhaps more worrying than the Taliban are the people who might be opposed to the deal. Suspects range from rogue Taliban commanders, to the local branch of the Islamic State group, to factions in the Afghan government profiting from the war economy.
Careful monitoring of the semi-truce will be important. If a car bomb goes off in Kabul next week, or a remote outpost is overrun, it will be necessary to clarify who was responsible. A communications channel between America and the Taliban is understood to have been agreed on.
‘We Shouldn’t Be Buying the Taliban’s Excuse’
The Afghan national security adviser wants his government to take over after a failed year of U.S. negotiations. But now the country has an uncertain election to contend with.
(The Atlantic) “Peace is our common objective, and terrorists are our common enemy,” Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib told the United Nations yesterday. “We must not rush the former at the risk of empowering the latter.”
Mohib, who has in the past made headlines with his blunt critique of American policies in his country, came to New York with an explicit message for the Taliban and a subtler one for the United States government. To the Taliban, he said: “Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight.” To the United States, which until talks collapsed in September seemed on the verge of concluding its own deal with the Taliban that did not include the Afghan government: “The next step belongs to us Afghans.”
Ghani, Abdullah camps claim victory in Afghanistan election
Official slams victory claims as premature after camps for incumbent president and rival chief executive say they won.
(Al Jazeera) A candidate needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to claim victory in the first round of voting. A runoff vote would be held in November between the top two candidates if no one passes that mark.
The vote held on Saturday saw a low turnout because of the threat of attacks, a muted campaign and concerns over fraud.
Still, election officials have said the result would be the purest yet, with equipment such as biometric fingerprint readers and better training for poll workers ensuring the vote was fair.
Former Afghan President Karzai: Election threatens peace prospect
“This is no time for elections,” he said. “We cannot conduct elections in a country that is going through a foreign-imposed conflict. We are in a war of foreign objectives and interests. It isn’t our conflict – we are only dying in it.”
(Al Jazeera) Afghanistan’s election on Saturday threatens the war-torn nation’s best chance of achieving peace with the Taliban and it should be scrapped, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said.
Holding the vote now “is like asking a heart patient to run a marathon” as it could ignite Taliban attacks that will seriously destabilise the country, Karzai told the Associated Press news agency on Tuesday.
The former president, still considered one of the most important people in Afghan politics, has pressed for a resumption of United States-Taliban talks, which collapsed earlier this month after US President Donald Trump said a deal that seemed imminent was “dead“.
AFGHANISTAN VOTES WITHOUT PEACE
The country will hold a presidential election on September 28.
(The Atlantic) Now that negotiations have fallen apart—with President Donald Trump declaring their demise on Twitter—the election results will actually determine the government that will decide the next steps of the peace process, if any.
Afghan Taliban Stronger Than Ever After U.S. Spends $900 Billion
(Bloomberg) For many Afghans like Zohra Atifi, whose husband was killed under Taliban rule, the American invasion in 2001 marked a chance to start over after living under an oppressive regime. Yet as Eltaf Najafizada reports, 18 years later, after the U.S. spent nearly $900 billion and more than 147,000 people died, the Taliban are growing more confident of returning to power.
Trump cancelling Taliban pact brings relief to world capitals, including Delhi
Delhi has not yet made an official statement, but legitimizing the Taliban at a Camp David ceremony would have had an adverse impact on India’s strategic interests in the region, writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor.
The Doha talks between the United States and the Taliban to work out a peace deal to end Afghanistan’s 18-year conflict began with a whimper a year ago. They ended Saturday with a presidential tweet from the White House that was no less than a bang that resounded around a startled world.
Trump Leaves Afghanistan and Pakistan at His Mercy
(truthdig) Most shaken by the turn of events in the peace process were the Taliban leaders themselves and their patrons in Pakistan. It had been a Herculean task to bring the killers of 2,300 American and 45,000 Afghan soldiers and 32,000 Afghan civilians to the negotiating table. Then they had to be persuaded to agree in principle to a peace process for power sharing. Some loose ends still had to be tied up, but there was hope. Credit for this goes to the tireless shuttle diplomacy spread over nine months by the Afghan-born American diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad. He has been strangely silent in the last two days.
‘Explosion caused by a rocket’ near US embassy in Kabul
Witnesses report a plume of smoke near the location of the explosion on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Taliban to continue fighting after Trump says talks ‘dead’
(Al Jazeera) Taliban says US will ‘regret’ decision calling off talks that raised hopes of ending 18-year-old Afghan war.
Trump Declares Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban ‘Dead
(NYT) President Trump declared that peace talks with the Taliban were “dead, as far as I’m concerned,” saying he called off a meeting at Camp David after the militant group in Afghanistan killed 12 people, including one American soldier.
The president’s declaration was the latest evidence of difficulty in the nine-month effort to negotiate an exit of American troops from Afghanistan … But it was unclear whether Mr. Trump’s angry denunciation would mean a permanent end to the talks. The president has demonstrated a willingness to swing from one extreme to the other in the conduct of foreign policy. … The long-running effort to negotiate peace in Afghanistan has split the administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supporting it, but with John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, opposing the talks.
Taliban Talks Hit a Wall Over Deeper Disagreements, Officials Say
(NYT) Even as President Trump blamed a recent Taliban attack for his decision to call off nearly year-long negotiations with the insurgents, officials suggested on Sunday it had more to do with the Taliban’s resistance to the American terms for a peace deal, and a rushed plan for a Camp David summit meeting.
Talks that once seemed on the verge of a breakthrough had hit a wall over how the deal should be finalized and announced, they said.
With the president himself showing more engagement in the talks in recent weeks after boiling criticism of a deal that was finalized “in principle,” the Trump administration had set in motion a daring gambit: Fly the insurgents’ leaders and the Afghan leader, Ashraf Ghani, to American soil.
Trump under fire over revelation of cancelled US-Taliban peace talks
President says he scrapped Camp David talks after Kabul blast
House Republican attacks invitation to Afghan ‘terrorists’
(The Guardian) Trump revealed that separate meetings with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and Taliban leaders had been set to take place at Camp David this weekend.
He tweeted on Saturday: “Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight,” Trump wrote.
He continued: “Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to….an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”
Taliban Failed to Live Up to ‘Commitments’ in Peace Talks, Pompeo Says
The Taliban Scoff at Trump’s Afghan Peace Talks Bluff
the longer the talks go on, the clearer it is that the Taliban have the final say. They know Trump is desperate to leave, and they are determined not only to remain a power in their country, but to re-establish what they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Sami Yousafzai, Erin Banco, Christopher Dickey
(Daily Beast) The American negotiator trying to cut a deal with the Taliban that might let Donald Trump get all uniformed troops out of Afghanistan before next year’s election says that the two sides have an “agreement in principle.”
But Taliban officials and diplomats here in the capital of Qatar, where the talks have been held, told The Daily Beast that after Round 9 last week, there was still no deal the Taliban would sign.
Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, appears to be bluffing, and has tried to make it sound as if it’s all up to his boss: “Of course, it is not final until the U.S. president agrees on it. So, at the moment, we are at that stage.”
Taliban launches ‘massive’ attack on Kunduz in northern Afghanistan
At least 36 insurgents killed in assault that comes as US continues talks with the group on ending America’s longest war
19 – 20 August
The U.S. is nearing a deal with the Taliban. But another major threat looms in Afghanistan: The Islamic State.
(WaPo) The United States and the Taliban have been holding talks on an initial agreement for months. The top U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, was expected to arrive in Qatar on Wednesday to prepare for the final round of negotiations after receiving President Trump’s blessing. In the current draft, the deal outlines the initial withdrawal of about 5,000 U.S. troops in exchange for a Taliban pledge to sever ties with al-Qaeda. It also calls for the beginning of Taliban talks with the Afghan government and planning for a cease-fire. But the agreement does not mention the Islamic State, a sworn enemy of the Taliban that is considered by far the bigger terrorist threat.
The official government line here [Kabul] is that the Islamic State has been defeated. … But local leaders in the border provinces of Nangahar and Konar tell a different story. They say Islamic State forces continue to terrorize villagers in areas under their control, forcibly recruiting boys and banning girls from school. They and U.S. officials say that Taliban and Islamic State forces have continued to fight each other, but that they also fear that some Taliban fighters will join the more ruthless Islamic State forces if Taliban leaders make a deal with U.S. officials.
What a wedding massacre says about Trump’s plan to leave Afghanistan
(CNN) The devastation represents a personal tragedy the families who were targeted in Kabul at the weekend. But it also provided a bloody backdrop to the final stages of peace talks being held now between the Taliban and the United States. … The massacre is a reflection of how badly Afghanistan has collapsed, not of how well the proposed peace deal might fix it. Trump wants out of Afghanistan, that much is clear, despite saying last year he would win. But how much of an inglorious end to America’s longest war is he prepared to countenance to make that happen? Sources close to the talks say they are 99% resolved around a deal between the US and the Taliban that would involve a reduction in American troops, and more importantly a ceasefire between these two combatants.
That ceasefire would not necessarily bring an end to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces — only remove the US’s airpower from the battlefield.
Afghanistan blasts wound dozens on Independence Day
(Reuters) – A series of bombings struck restaurants and public squares on Monday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, wounding at least 66 people, officials said, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its independence.
Trump and senior aides discuss withdrawal from Afghanistan as talks with Taliban advance
U.S. negotiators have made significant advances in recent talks with the Taliban, and the two sides are close to announcing an agreement on an initial U.S. troop withdrawal, along with plans to start direct discussions between the militants and the Afghan government, according to American and foreign officials.
Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council
Afghan women have “paid a high price” during their country’s nearly four decades of conflict, the United Nations deputy chief said on Friday, addressing the Security Council a day after Kabul had been hit with a fresh round of “horrific” bomb attacks.</em>
(UN News) … elections are scheduled for 28 September and both the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission heads are women.
Since the fall of the Taliban, nine out of 11 million Afghan children are now enrolled in school; investments in reducing maternal mortality are saving thousands of lives; and improved infrastructure and power supplies are connecting remote areas to national economic opportunities.
Afghanistan has “done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are “rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society”, Ms. Mohammed spotlighted.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development holds great promise for the lives of Afghans across the country,” she said highlighting that 24 UN agencies are partnering with the government on issues ranging from food security to clean water and the rule of law, “often risking their lives”.
Trump says he could win Afghan war and wipe country ‘off the face of the Earth’ – video
Donald Trump has said that he could win the Afghanistan war ‘in a week’ adding that the country ‘could be wiped off the face of the Earth. I don’t want to go that route’. The president made the claim sitting alongside the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, who is seeking to have more than $1bn in US aid restored, after Trump cut it off last year blaming Islamabad for not doing enough to fight extremism. Trump said he would not do it because ‘I just don’t want to kill 10 million people’
US-Taliban talks for peace in Afghanistan: What we know so far
The seventh round of talks begin, days after the US says it hopes for a peace deal before September 1
(Al Jazeera) The latest round of direct talks, which got under way in Doha on Saturday, is focused on four key issues: a Taliban guarantee that it will not allow fighters to use Afghanistan to launch attacks outside the country, the withdrawal of US and NATO forces, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
Following the end of the sixth round of negotiations with the Taliban in May, the US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, announced that “faster progress” was needed as “the conflict rages” and “innocent people die”.
But analysts say peace has never been closer in Afghanistan since the talks between the US and the Taliban began.
Separately, three meetings have been held since 2017 in Moscow between the Taliban and senior Afghan politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.
Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a grand council in Kabul with politicians and tribal, ethnic and religious leaders to discuss the talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha.
But as these initiatives remain in the spotlight, deep divisions among the Afghan government and politicians complicate efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan.
What has been agreed to so far in US-Taliban talks?
[Zalmay] Khalilzad, an Afghan-American diplomat who served as US ambassador to the United Nations (2007-2009), Iraq (2005-2007) and Afghanistan (2003-2005), is leading the US side in the Doha talks.
The Taliban is represented by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the group’s office chief, and cofounder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was released in October last year from a Pakistani prison.
In previous rounds of talks, the two sides had agreed on a “draft framework” that included the withdrawal of US troops, a discussion on Taliban’s commitment that the Afghan territory would not be used by international “terror” groups, and that a ceasefire would be implemented across the country.
But the Taliban insists it will not commit to any of these things until the US announces a withdrawal timeline.
As U.S. And Taliban Resume Talks, More Deadly Attacks in Afghanistan
(NYT) Deadly violence surged across Afghanistan as American and Taliban officials started a seventh round of peace talks on Saturday, with high hopes for a breakthrough. The talks, held in the Qatari capital, Doha, aim to hammer out a provisional schedule for American troop withdrawal in exchange for Taliban guarantees that international terror groups will not be allowed to operate on Afghan soil. Such an agreement is seen as a crucial step toward opening negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government over the country’s political future.
RYAN CROCKER: I was ambassador to Afghanistan. This deal is a surrender.
A framework agreement was announced on Monday calling for a cease-fire that could lead to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops. … The framework was reached without the involvement of the Afghan government. The Taliban has said all along that it refuses to negotiate with the government, considering the government the illegitimate puppet of the U.S. occupation. “By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support. This current process bears an unfortunate resemblance to the Paris peace talks during the Vietnam War. Then, as now, it was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our 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.
The US-Taliban negotiations breakthrough: What it means and what lies ahead
(Brookings) many difficult questions remain: How fast will the United States withdraw its military forces—in as few months as the Taliban wants (militarily infeasible and strategically unsound for the United States and Afghanistan), or between 16 to 24 months as the United States seeks? Will there be a residual U.S. military force, of say 1,000 soldiers, to protect the U.S. embassy, which—wink, wink, with the Taliban’s permission—will have the capacity to conduct limited counterterrorism strikes, something the Obama administration had contemplated in 2014? Will the Taliban finally agree to negotiate with the Afghan government, as President Ashraf Ghani, very leery of the U.S.-Taliban negotiations, has been insisting? Will the Taliban agree to a ceasefire while it negotiates with the Afghan government? And will the U.S. military remain in Afghanistan (and at what strength) until the agreement is concluded? If not, the U.S.-Taliban deal will merely be a fig leaf for U.S. departure while the Afghan government and people are left on their own to face the Taliban.
Taliban Talks Raise Question of What U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan Could Mean
President Trump’s headway in Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban raises the same question that has bedeviled other presidents who extracted American troops from foreign wars: Will the departing Americans end up handing over the country to the same ruthless militants that the United States went to war to dislodge?
A hasty American withdrawal, experts said, would erode the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government, raising the risk that the Taliban could recapture control of the country. Short of that, it could consign Afghanistan to a protracted, bloody civil war, with Taliban fighters besieging the capital, Kabul, as they did in the 1990s.
These scenarios now seem possible because of the progress in direct talks between the United States and the Taliban. The chief American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Monday that American and Taliban officials had agreed in principle to the outlines of a deal in which the insurgents would guarantee that Afghan territory is never used by terrorists, setting the stage for a total pullout of American troops.
U.S. and Taliban Agree in Principle to Peace Framework, Envoy Says
After nine years of halting efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the draft framework, though preliminary, is the biggest tangible step toward ending a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and profoundly changed American foreign policy.
A senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations, said the Taliban delegation had asked for time to confer with their leadership about the American requirements for the insurgents’ agreement to hold direct talks with the Afghan government and to a cease-fire.
To many analysts of the Afghanistan conflict, the details that have emerged so far in Mr. Khalilizad’s discussions with the Taliban suggested an American desperation for a withdrawal from a war regarded as unwinnable, rather than patience for a comprehensive peace deal that could ensure some of the most basic values the Americans have emphasized in their 18-year presence in the country.
[chief United States negotiator Zalmay] Khalilzad returned to Afghanistan on Sunday to brief the government in Kabul after conducting six days of talks with the Taliban delegation in Doha, Qatar. In an address to the nation on Monday after Mr. Khalilzad had briefed him, President Ashraf Ghani expressed concern that a peace deal would be rushed. He highlighted previous settlements that ended in bloodshed, including when the Soviet Union withdrew from the country in the late 1980s.
Why Did Soviets Invade Afghanistan? Documents Offer History Lesson for Trump
(NYT) The origins of the Soviet invasion offer lessons for a history-challenged Mr. Trump as he negotiates an end to the United States’ own war in Afghanistan, now 17 years old. An American envoy reported Monday that he has reached a draft framework for peace with the Taliban.
A hardscrabble land of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable brutality, torn by religious, ethnic and tribal divisions and stuck in a virtually medieval reality, Afghanistan has been at the center of geopolitical contests for centuries — and high on the American priority list since the Soviet invasion of December 1979.
Mr. Trump argues that it is time to leave. During a cabinet meeting in early January where he discussed plans to withdraw half of the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan, Mr. Trump said other countries should pick up the slack, including Russia.
Taliban Ceasefire Talks: Trump’s Need to ‘Bring Boys Home’ Risks Wasting Lives Already Lost
By C. Uday Bhaskar
Negotiators from the United States and the Taliban held talks in Qatar this week on a ceasefire to the 17-year war in Afghanistan – with a deal under discussion that would result in the withdrawal of American troops, and insurgents promising not to allow the country to host militant groups like al-Qaeda.
The talks came after US Senator Lindsey Graham last Sunday urged Trump to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying it was time for both sides to have a “strategic partnership”. Khan has long been supportive of a peace treaty to stop the raging conflict between the Taliban and Afghan and US forces.
Concurrently, the US Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel met Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, with the talks confirming that the Afghan peace process was “high on the agenda”. The Pakistani daily Dawnthen reported the US was considering the offer of a free-trade agreement in exchange for Islamabad’s help in talks with the Taliban.
Does this latest of flurry of activity mean that the end of a foreign military presence in Afghanistan is in sight? The signals are mixed and contradictory at this point.
Even while the Taliban claims the US is accepting of its demand to pull out troops, Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad added a caveat when he noted military pressure was essential to creating the conditions for the peace negotiations with the Taliban, and promised the US would maintain the security support it is providing to Afghan security forces.
The fact that the Taliban brazenly claimed responsibility for an attack last week in the Afghanistan province of Wardak that killed 65 people, even while talks were going on, is indicative of the audacity of the group and the perilous security situation within the country.
The inability of the Kabul government to prevent such attacks points to the growing profile of the Taliban in the internal power structure of a war-weary country.
A story of music. A story of courage. The story of Zohra.
The musicians of Zohra are smoothing out their dresses. Everything has to be perfect before the curtain goes up. It’s 6.30pm; on the other side of the drape is the culmination of a long journey. These 30 young Afghan women have flown all the way from Asia to perform in Switzerland in front of 2,000 world leaders. Instruments at the ready, Zohra – named after a Persian goddess of music – are about to bring to a close the 2017 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
This isn’t just their first time outside Afghanistan, it’s the first time stage fright is the only fear they must brave. Back home, a performance by Zohra may be met with abuse or threats – or even bombs. Here they can – quite literally – show their true colours. Cloaked in exquisitely embroidered costumes, their heads wrapped in bright-hued headscarves, the young members of the Zohra orchestra are ready to share their culture and their message of hope with the world.
U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say
(NYT) The whirlwind of troop withdrawals and the resignation of Mr. Mattis leave a murky picture for what is next in the United States’ longest war, and they come as Afghanistan has been troubled by spasms of violence afflicting the capital, Kabul, and other important areas. The United States has also been conducting talks with representatives of the Taliban, in what officials have described as discussions that could lead to formal talks to end the conflict.
Ballots and bullets in Afghanistan
(Brookings) Despite Taliban threats of violence to disrupt last Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, many Afghans showed up in large numbers to vote. Their commitment once again debunked the myths and caricatures so readily put forth by Western commentators that Afghans do not want democracy. Over and over the Afghan people have shown that they want accountability from their leaders, inclusion, and justice. And, once again, the long-delayed elections showed how the commitments and desires of the Afghan people are frustrated by dysfunctional political processes and systems that often render their voices meaningless, further exacerbating the steadily worsening security situation.
The people who showed up to vote exhibited great bravery: The Taliban attacked polling stations, rained rocket fire on some towns, and kidnapped and killed four election officials. At least 78 people, including 28 members of the Afghan security forces, were killed by the end of Saturday and some 470 people were wounded. Afghan security forces did succeed in preventing large-scale attacks on election day. But at least one-third of polling stations did not open due to insecurity, and the Taliban and various political rivals killed numerous political candidates while campaigning.
Polls close in Afghanistan’s long-delayed parliamentary elections
Parliamentary polls, the third since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, saw large numbers of voters cast their ballots
(Al Jazeera) Most polling stations in the country opened on Saturday at 7am (02:30 GMT) and were scheduled to close at 4pm (12:30 GMT).
But voting was extended to Sunday at 6pm (13:30 GMT) as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said they gave voters more time to cast their ballot because of a lack of voter materials at some polling stations and problems with the electronic voter system.
Vote counting is under way and preliminary results are expected within 20 days. The electoral body has until December 20 to release the final results.
Afghanistan election: Voters cast ballots amid heavy security
Nearly nine million voters are entitled to cast their ballots when polling stations open at 03:30 GMT. The voting is expected to end at 11:30 GMT.
But only about 5,000 polling stations of the initially planned 7,000 will be operational because of security concerns.
About 54,000 members of the security forces have been deployed to try to ensure the elections pass off peacefully.
Preliminary results are expected 20 days after the election, on 10 November.
Why do the elections matter?
Most Afghans are desperate for a better life, jobs, education and an end to the war with the Taliban.
For the country’s foreign partners, seeing a flourishing democracy would be the return they’re seeking after many years of investment, billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost in more than a decade of fighting.
Two top Afghan leaders in Kandahar Province were assassinated in a devastating attack that narrowly missed the top American commander in the country, Gen. Austin Miller. Accounts suggested it was an inside job.
The attack came just two days before national elections that have already been marred by violence; at least 10 candidates and dozens of their supporters have been killed.
Adding to the tension: The U.S. has held quiet talks with the Taliban, blindsiding the Afghan president.
(NYT evening brief) Taliban insurgents said they had taken control of the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni early Friday. If confirmed, the move would represent the militant group’s most important strategic gain in years.
Government officials denied that Ghazni, a provincial capital, had fallen, but conceded that the insurgents were close.
Ghazni sits on an important north-south highway. If the Taliban control the city, they would essentially cut off the south.
Afghanistan: dozens dead as Taliban attack Ghazni, officials say
Many killed in overnight attack on provincial capital before troops force militants out
Attackers hit Afghan capital Kabul with bombs, bullets
(Reuters) – Gunmen mounted coordinated attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, battling security forces for hours in the city’s main commercial area after three large explosions sent plumes of smoke and dust into the sky.
Three months later, the horror continues
Twin blasts in Afghan capital kill at least 26, including nine journalists who had arrived to report on the first explosion and were apparently targeted by a suicide bomber, officials said.
(Reuters) The attacks, a week after 60 people were killed as they waited at a voter registration center in the city, underlined mounting insecurity despite repeated government pledges to tighten defenses.
Hours after the attack in Kabul, a suicide bomber in a vehicle attacked a foreign military convoy in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 11 children studying in a nearby religious school, police said.
The attacks in rapid succession were a grim reminder of the strength of both the Taliban and Islamic State’s emerging Afghanistan branch to wreak violence despite stepped up U.S. air attacks under Trump’s new policy for the 16-year-old war.
Kabul: bomb hidden in ambulance kills dozens
Attacker passed first checkpoint by claiming he had a patient, then detonated explosives
The attack came a week after Taliban attackers stormed the city’s high-end Intercontinental hotel, killing at least 22 people, and four days after an Isis suicide bomber attacked the offices of the Save the Children charity in eastern Afghanistan. …the recent assaults show insurgents are still capable of complex attacks that are damaging to both morale and infrastructure. And they come in winter, when the Taliban have traditionally retreated to havens in Pakistan, waiting for the summer fighting season.
Taliban claims Kabul Intercontinental hotel siege
(Al Jazeera) A marathon deadly siege on a major hotel in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, has ended with the killing of all gunmen who fought off security forces for 16 hours.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the heavily-guarded Intercontinental Hotel in the Bagh-e Bala which left at least 18 civilians dead and 22 wounded.
Kabul hotel attack: guests ‘sprayed with bullets as they ran’
(The Guardian) The Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed five gunmen belonging to the group were responsible for the attack, while the Afghan interior ministry blamed the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, which killed 21 people in an attack on the same hotel in 2011.
Up to 1,000 more U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring
(WaPost) The U.S. Army is readying plans that could increase the total force in Afghanistan by as many as 1,000 U.S. troops this spring beyond the 14,000 already in the country, senior military officials said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not signed off on the proposals for the new forces, which are part of a broader strategy to bolster Afghan forces so that they can pound the Taliban during the upcoming fighting season.
The President, the Strongman, and the Next U.S. Headache in Afghanistan
By MUJIB MASHAL
(NYT) Atta Muhammad Noor, a strongman who has ruled a prosperous northern Afghan province more like a king than a governor for 13 years, was driving between meetings in Dubai last month when he got the call: President Ashraf Ghani was firing him.
For three years, Mr. Ghani had tried to ease Mr. Noor, 54, a commander of the mujahedeen resistance to the Soviets who then became a warlord in the civil war and in the battle against the Taliban, out of his spot as governor of Balkh Province, the country’s commercial hub. Negotiations over a deal that would see Mr. Noor finally leave in return for more government seats for his political party faltered. And when Mr. Noor began meeting with other important regional power brokers who were also critics of the president, Mr. Ghani decided he had finally had enough. He ordered Mr. Noor out.
The Afghan president may have miscalculated.
Since returning to Balkh, not only has Mr. Noor rejected the Afghan president’s firing of him, but he is using his defiance of the American-backed administration in Kabul as a platform to project himself as a player in the presidential elections that are supposed to happen next year.
The Afghan president has more powers than a king
by Nazif Shahrani
(Al Jazeera) The dismissal of Governor Atta Muhammad Nur of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan by President Ashraf Ghani on December 18, 2017, was met with adamant defiance by the governor and his supporters. It was an unnecessary, constitutionally induced, crisis that has brought the country to the brink of yet another major conflict.
This development is also a symptom of a much deeper constitutional problem, which, if not resolved, could be a recipe for disaster in the future.
The 2004 Afghan constitution invests the president with more powers than former Afghan kings had before the republican period. Among them is the power to appoint all government officials, political and professional, from the cabinet to the district levels.
At the same time the office of the president, at least in practice, tends to be filled only with ethnic Pashtuns. That is why candidates view the presidency as “the prize” to be won at any cost.
Hence, presidential elections have become a massive exercise in fraud. The last election conducted in 2014 was the worst by far. Following accusations of unprecedented violations, US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered, extra-constitutionally, a national unity government for Ashraf Ghani and Abdulla Abdulla to share power, averting a likely tragedy.
Nikki Haley: Pakistan playing ‘double game’ for years
“They work with us at times, and they also harbour the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan,” Haley told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York. That game is not acceptable to this administration.”
Trump shifts gears on Afghanistan
(The Hill) President Trump is changing gears on Afghanistan as he enters his second year in office.
After decrying nation building during his presidential campaign and lambasting Afghanistan as a “complete waste,” the president is in the midst of sending thousands more troops to the country in an effort to stabilize it.
The move, military commanders say, will help break a stalemate in the longest U.S. war in history and help beat back a resurgent Taliban and straggling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters.
But defense experts say there is little indication the shift will be a quick fix.
The U.S. must contend with an increased ISIS presence while keeping Afghanistan politically stable and pressuring Pakistan to limit the space for the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to James Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Its dreams of a caliphate are gone. Now Isis has a deadly new strategy
Territorial losses in Syria and Iraq mean Islamic State militants are igniting bloody sectarian insurgencies elsewhere
By Hassan Hassan
(The Guardian) Last Thursday, dozens of civilians in Kabul were killed in a suicide attack that targeted a Shia cultural centre in the Afghan capital. The assault was the latest in persistent attacks by an affiliate of Isis, which has proved to be resilient despite a relentless campaign against it in recent months.
Aside from its persistence in Afghanistan, the nature of Thursday’s attack is a harbinger of what is to come as Isis loses its caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Scores killed in Isis bombing of Kabul news agency and Shia centre
At least 41 people killed and 80 wounded in sectarian attack in Afghan capital that UN said deliberately targeted children
Islamic State has killed at least 41 people and injured more than 80 others in an attack on a Shia cultural centre and news agency that share a building in Kabul.
The bombings were the latest in a particularly bloody year for the Afghan capital, even by the standards of a country inured to decades of conflict.
The first explosion was detonated by a suicide bomber sitting among students at a lecture marking the 38th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The death toll rose over the day as hospitals struggled to cope, and may climb further.
Haqqani network’s loss of hostages raises concerns over possible quid pro quo
Release of Canadian Joshua Boyle and family may be result of increased U.S. pressure on Pakistan
(CBC) The freeing of a Canadian-American family held hostage by the Haqqani network has cast a spotlight on the lesser-known terror group. It also has raised questions about what the network might have received in return.
Ashraf Ghani: Afghan president has ‘worst job on Earth’
(BBC) The most obvious [issue] is security. His country has been at war for almost 16 years now. Yet the Afghan president is surprisingly bullish about how long the country will continue to require the support of Nato.
Nato troops, he says, will be able to pull out “within four years”.
Many military analysts will consider that optimistic given that it is only three years since the Nato combat mission ended and the Afghan military took responsibility for the battle against the Taliban and other insurgent groups. … The latest figures from the US military show that the Afghan government controls less than two-thirds of the country. The rest is either controlled or contested by the Taliban and other militant groups.
What is more, last year Afghanistan lost some 10% of its entire fighting force: about 7,000 Afghan National Army soldiers were killed, another 12,000 were injured, and many thousands more deserted.
President Trump meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (CNBC video)