As a result of the Taliban gains, in June the Obama administration loosened the rules of engagement for using American air power against the Taliban. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of US airstrikes in recent months, according to Brig. Gen. Cleveland.
How ISIS is faring
ISiS has planted its black flags in eastern Afghanistan. Naming itself Islamic State Khorosan, an ancient name for Afghanistan, the terrorist group — made up principally of Pakistani Pashtuns and a number of Uzbeks — had the goal of seizing the eastern city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province as the capital of their self-styled caliphate, according to Gen. Nicholson.
That plan has not fared well. In July, Afghan commandos with embedded US Special Forces attacked ISIS in Nangarhar province, killing 15% of their forces. About 1,000 ISIS fighters today remain on the battlefield, according to Cleveland.
What to do about the Afghan War should be one of the first priorities of the new president when he or she assumes office in January.
President Barack Obama faced a similar choice when he first assumed office in January 2009; a resurgent Taliban looked like they were about to wrest control of much of southern Afghanistan. Thanks to a surge totaling tens of thousands of US troops ordered by Obama, the Taliban were largely defeated in Afghanistan six years ago.
Now it’s deju vu all over again.
Obama administration’s mistake
The mistake the Obama administration has made in Afghanistan is to announce a series of putative, total withdrawal dates, none of which have actually happened.
These announcements have tended to undermine the will of the Afghan government and armed forces and have helped to keep Taliban morale up.
The Obama administration had planned to effectively zero out US troops in Afghanistan, but given the Taliban resurgence instead settled on leaving 8,400 soldiers in place by the time the next president takes office. This is the bare-bones figure to keep open key US facilities such as Bagram Air Base, where many of the airstrikes against the Taliban originate.
The next president can build on NATO’s recent pledge to keep supporting the Afghan army to the tune of $15 billion over the next four years by saying that the United States plans to remain in Afghanistan for some indeterminate period of time. Such a plan need not involve a significant number of US combat troops, but it would involve significant numbers of Special Forces to train and advise the Afghan military, as well as intelligence assets and air support.
The next president should point to the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the US has already negotiated with the Afghan government that provides the framework for a long-term American presence until at least 2024.
The new president should also explain that it is in US and Afghan interests for the United States to remain a guarantor of Afghan stability for the foreseeable future. After all, Osama bin Laden hatched the 9/11 plot in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and an Afghanistan with a newly ascendant Taliban, and a growing ISIS presence, surely is in the interest of neither Afghans nor Americans.
Original Post by: edition.cnn.com