Sunday, October 30, 2016

Afghan troops are getting slaughtered. Unsustainable casualties continue in Afghanistan.

Afghan special forces prepare for battle in Lashkar Gah. Reuters. 

In the first 8 months of 2016 Afghan troops have suffered immense casualties in their battles against the Taliban and ISIS. VOA. This year alone they have suffered 15,000 casualties and more then 5,500 deaths. Even worse, they have lost 2.2% of the territory they held in the same time period. Of the 407 districts in the country, the government only holds 258, with 116 contested and 33 completely under enemy control. Insider attacks have been a crucial aspect with 257 deaths and 125 other casualties inflicted by inside traitors. Civilian casualties have been heavy as well with 8,000 total casualties, with 2500 of those being deaths. 

My Comment:
Afghanistan is a basket case and the situation is just getting worse. Losing 5,500 troops in 8 months is not something that can be sustained by the Afghan government. And many of the wounded are going to be too crippled to continue fighting. The Afghan Army only has 185,000 troops (or even less by some accounts), many of them in non-combat roles. If my math is correct that means that roughly 12% of their military has been injured this year alone. 

There is no way that the Afghan military can sustain those kinds of losses. Especially since the vast majority of those hurt and killed are going to be the front line soldiers. It takes a lot of time and money to train a rifleman and to lose so many so quickly just isn't sustainable. Either they are going to have to rush out new recruits without training them completely, or they are going to have to transfer people from the non-combat units. Either way, quality will decrease as these casualties continue to mount. 

No military could take those kinds of casualties, year after year. Especially not a country as poor, corrupt and incompetent as Afghanistan. Every soldier they lose is more money down the drain and a major blow to morale in a country that is seriously lacking. Indeed, I think the only thing that is propping up the Afghan government is the fact that we are still backing them to a degree. Even though our troops aren't directly involved in the fight, we are providing arms, air support and training. 

But it's not just the casualties. The Afghan military is also losing quite a bit of territory. 2.2% is nothing to sneeze at and it represents a large gain for Afghan Taliban and ISIS forces in the country. Ignoring the obvious strategic benefits of taking more of the country, the Taliban and ISIS are able to use the captured areas as a tax base and recruitment areas while the Afghan government no longer has that option. 

And the people they are fighting are some of the worst people in the world. The Taliban have long conducted terror attacks in their territory and often harbor terrorists. They also treat women and children terribly and are very involved in the drug trade. Letting them gain power was a major factor in 9/11 happening and they end up victorious the whole vicious cycle could start over again. 

Critically, Afghanistan is one of the few places where ISIS is expanding right now, with the other major country being Somalia. ISIS is taking advantage of the weakness of the national government to establish a toehold in the country. If they are allowed to do so, Afghanistan may well be a backup plan if and when their holdings in Syria, Iraq and Libya are finally liberated. 

Clearly, our strategy in Afghanistan has failed. We decided that it was time for the Afghans to stand alone but it seems that they are not up to the task. What they really need is large numbers of well trained fighters, but who on Earth is going to fight Afghanistan's battles for them? Obviously, there is no appetite in America for doing so... 

And though Afghanistan is a critical war, and US troops continue to serve there, the issue has hardly come up during the election cycle. The only incident I remember was Bernie Sanders flubbing a debate question. Trump and Clinton never seem to talk about it. Some of that is justified by the larger foreign policy challenges going on right now, but I don't think it's wise to ignore what is happening in Afghanistan. I wish both candidates would put forward a plan to defeat the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan once and for all, but I am not holding my breath... 

We have been at war in Afghanistan for 15 years, and we have little to show for it. Though al-Qaeda's base of operations has been broken, the Taliban is still in good shape and is expanding. Even worse, a much worse terror group, ISIS has rushed in to fill the void left by al-Qaeda.

If the Afghan government were to fall and the Taliban and/or ISIS were to gain power in most of Afghanistan it would pretty much outweigh all our accomplishments in the country. If Afghanistan falls it means that the 2386 military deaths we suffered there, along with the 20,000 or so wounded, would have been sacrificed for nothing. But unless something changes, that is the direction we are heading... 

No comments:

Post a Comment