The Taliban holds more territory in Afghanistan today than at any time since 2001. Current U.S. Commander Gen. John W. Nicholson has submitted a secret assessment of the situation to the Pentagon:
The report — and Nicholson’s deployment to Afghanistan — come at a time of Taliban resurgence, with the group gaining ground in the southern provinces of the Taliban heartland…
The Taliban’s warm-weather offensive has shown the insurgents to be bolder and better organized, holding more territory now than at any time since 2001, when their regime was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion, according to recent U.N. estimates.
Part of the concern is that more U.S. troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of the year, leaving the defense of the country in the hands of the poorly trained Afghan military:
Since all foreign combat troops pulled out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014, leaving only an advisory and training contingent of international forces behind, the Afghan military has struggled in leading the fight, its 195,000 soldiers learning as they go.
The 9,800 remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to drop to 5,500 by the end of this year, but the pace of that decline has yet to be decided. One factor in determining future troop levels is the extent to which NATO allies are willing to remain involved in training and advising the Afghans.
That is likely to figure prominently in Nicholson’s review, which is widely expected to include a recommendation for more U.S. soldiers to boost training.
Through the report is still secret it certainly sounds as if we’re facing a similar situation to the one we faced in Iraq as Obama was coming in to office. The decision to remove all of our troops there left a power vacuum which was filled by ISIS. In Afghanistan, it seems somethign similar could happen with a resurgent Taliban.
Unlike the war in Iraq, Senator (and then President) Obama supported the war in Afghanistan and even sent a surge of troops there after taking office. So the question of his legacy would seem to be on the line with this decision about how and when to wind down troop levels.