With the United States preparing to exit Afghanistan stage left and all the attention focused on Syria and Iraq, this story might have slipped by under the covers. Yesterday the Taliban mounted one of their first large scale offensives in quite a while and took control of the key, northern city of Kunduz. It’s a former Taliban center of power and occupies a strategic position near the border of Tajikistan as an transportation hub.
Reports from the BBC indicate that the Taliban isn’t acting alone here. They were joined by terrorists from a couple of different groups.
The Taliban have overrun the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, taking control of most areas and freeing hundreds of prisoners from its jail.
Hundreds of militants stormed the city before dawn, quickly seizing key buildings and advancing on the airport.
The government says it has sent reinforcements to Kunduz and fighting is ongoing…
They are the dominant militant group in the province, with an estimated 2,000 fighters. But there are also reportedly hundreds of foreign fighters associated with al-Qaeda, so-called Islamic State and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
The Afghan forces seem to be relatively impotent to handle a challenge like this on their own in areas away from the capital. Still, the Americans aren’t gone from the country entirely yet and we struck back with some supporting air strikes before the day was out. (USA Today)
The U.S. military says it launched an airstrike on the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan early Tuesday, after it was captured by the Taliban the previous day.
U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, spokesman for the U.S. and NATO missions in Afghanistan, said the strike was carried out “in order to eliminate a threat to the force.”
Afghan forces have launched an operation to try and retake the city, which fell to the Taliban on Monday.
Is there any reason to suspect that this isn’t just an appetizer which represents what’s to come when we finally clear out of the country entirely? While understanding that there are some key differences both culturally and militarily between the two countries, this is rather sadly reminiscent of what we’ve seen in Iraq. The Americans do the fighting and the locals who we seek to train and prepare to stand on their own lack either the temperament or the desire to take the battle to the enemy. When the time comes for the dirty business of war they have all too often dropped their weapons, taken off their uniforms and disappeared.
Kunduz may indeed be retaken now that we’re coordinating air strikes to soften up the terrorists, but how long will that hold? Once the Americans fully withdraw there won’t be any more lighting fast response air strikes when the Taliban and their allies begin retaking territory. For that matter, we’re still in country with a fairly substantial force and even Afghanistan’s leaders admit that they really only control a small section of the nation around the capital and some other major population centers. The current government can’t expect much help from their neighbors when we leave either, since Pakistan is a dubious ally at best.
In the end Afghanistan may well just go back to being what it’s always been. And I’m not sure what, if anything, we can or should do about that.