For the Trump Administration, facing a question whether to increase the US troop levels in Afghanistan, this can’t be good news. US National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said on Thursday that even if the US and its allies increase their military aid to the war-torn country, the security situation there is still likely to deteriorate.
LTG Vincent Stewart, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s director, also testified before a Senate panel on Thursday that the situation is grim and that the US must do “something very different” in Afghanistan or else the Taliban will make new advances on the battlefield. He maintained that the current stalemate in fighting could then tip in the Taliban’s favor.
“The political and security situation in Afghanistan will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US and its partners,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said at the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Afghanistan will struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban,” Coats told lawmakers in presenting an annual assessment of threats to US national security.
US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for 16 years, making it America’s longest war, yet the situation there remains a stalemate.
The Taliban, which first emerged in the mid-1990s in southern Afghanistan, managed to conquer most of the country before its 2001 ouster with the help of a range of foreign jihadists, including Pakistanis, Saudis and Chechens.
But it has been on the rebound, Coates said, and continues to gain strength. “The Taliban are likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas,” said the US spy chief, adding that efforts to bolster local military have been less fruitful than hoped.
Under the original plan by the Obama Administration, the United States was to withdraw all its military forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Those plans have proven very premature as the security situation was deemed critical. The US still has 8400 troops on the ground with NATO forces adding an additional 5000.
President Trump is weighing whether to send as many as an additional 5000 troops into the fray to defeat both ISIS and the Taliban in the country.
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Photo courtesy DOD