The US Afghanistan strategy is not just flawed, it’s effectively non-existent. The current strategy appears to be to pull back from the outlying areas and concentrate on the city centers hoping to create a situation where the Taliban will negotiate a peace deal. This was the strategy used when a complete pull-out was proposed during the Obama administration.
As the US pulled back our forces and tried to increase the ANA’s input into their own defense the Taliban has taken back much of the countryside. The Afghan government doesn’t have the capability after 17 years to hold terrain. They can barely protect the key cities. Remember there aren’t many of these “key” locations, Kabul, Kandahar, Mazari Sharif, etc.
There are other factors, however, that a coherent strategy must address. It’s been an open secret that the Pakistani’s have harbored and continue to harbor the Taliban in the Waziristan region (probably other regions as well). The Taliban have, since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, fought in Afghanistan and regrouped in Pakistan unabated. Remember Osama Bin Laden was discovered just down the road from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. While President Trump has openly questioned Pakistan’s commitment and cut $30 million in aid. It is unclear what effect these sanctions have or will have. Is it enough?
Taliban funding? Has the US stopped the large-scale production of Opium that supplies the Taliban? The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported a record-setting Opium harvest in 2017.
“According to the latest survey report released today by UNODC, last year’s record levels of production has led to unprecedented levels of potential heroin production. From the 2017 opium harvest, some 550-900 tons of heroin of export quality (purity between 50 and 70 percent) can be produced.”
Remember the poppy eradication program? Yeah, neither do the Afghan farmers or the Taliban. It wasn’t real. Just a show. One acre burned while ten left alone. Photo OPS then they are gone! Military and civilian leaders claimed they couldn’t really stop the poppy growth as it would hurt the farmers and turn them to the Taliban. The Taliban that they already grow for. It must be political logic.
Then there is the challenge of the Afghan government’s corruption? The US was in such a hurry to turn the Afghan government back over to the Afghans that the US didn’t ensure the individuals that were put into power were reliable. Corruption is a natural state of the Afghan culture. It isn’t easy just put someone in place (or allow a vote) and not monitor and correct the actions of the new officials. If they are as corrupt as the last what have gained? It’s understandable to an extent that if US officials actually run the show then the Afghan officials will simply be puppets. This is true but how else does one implement a concept as foreign as honest government without such a plan.
The US has had 9 Afghan campaign commanders. This is not that way to “win” anything. This has become just another rotation. Check one more block. What is the incentive for a commander to take decisive action? Why take the risk? Just maintain what we have had and move on up. This also applies to the idea of Unit rotations. This is a great plan for Congress who isn’t held accountable for a real “WAR”. They just continue to fund without declaring war thus continuing the combat in decreased numbers but without end.
“What we’ve got here is a .. failure to communicate.” “Some men you just can’t reach.” (The Captain, Cool Hand Luke-1967)