Months after President Obama formally declared that the United States’ long war against the Taliban was over in Afghanistan, the American military is regularly conducting airstrikes against low-level insurgent forces and sending Special Operations troops directly into harm’s way under the guise of “training and advising.”
In justifying the continued presence of the American forces in Afghanistan, administration officials have insisted that the troops’ role is relegated to counterterrorism, defined as tracking down the remnants of Al Qaeda and other global terrorist groups, and training and advising the Afghan security forces who have assumed the bulk of the fight.
Given the geo-strategic environment prevailing in the Middle Eastern region (the rise of the ISIL) and the catastrophe that U.S. post-war plans faced in Iraq, it seems the U.S. would take pains not to repeat that story in Afghanistan — a country that Washington still covets to undercut Russian and Chinese influence in Central and South Asian regions.
Apart from deteriorating security situation to the south and west of Afghanistan, the security and political situation inside Afghanistan itself doesn’t lend itself to a change in the current U.S. position. The Afghan Taliban are not only in control of crucial areas such as Qandahar, they are also becoming more and more potent in conducting attacks on U.S.-trained Afghan forces.
Congress has appropriated at least $60.7 billion to train, equip and pay salaries for the Afghan army and police force over the past decade. NATO said this year that the Afghan army had 167,024 members and the Afghan police 154,685 members, but the SIGAR report said those numbers are not reliable.