The Taliban isn't waiting for us to leave before taking over Afghanistan

(AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary, File)

The clock is ticking down toward the final exit of the United States and allied troops from Afghanistan. That’s expected to take place at some point later this summer, though the original target date of July 4th is seemingly off the table now. The near certainty of insurgents backed by the Taliban retaking control of the country has always been a concern, but it now appears that they aren’t waiting around for all of the allies to bug out. Over the weekend, multiple videos kept showing up depicting insurgents moving into district headquarters around the country after negotiating the surrender of the government forces that had been staffing them. At least 23 district HQs have reportedly fallen already, though nearly all of them are remote, rural districts far from the country’s few larger population centers. At this point, the writing appears to be on the wall. (Wall Street Journal)

Every few hours this weekend, the Taliban released videos of triumphant insurgents inspecting yet another Afghan district headquarters that had been lost in battle by government forces or surrendered without a fight.

Some of these districts, a unit equivalent to American counties, are too remote or sparsely populated to warrant defending as the overstretched Afghan military, shorn of vital U.S. air support, refocuses on protecting the country’s major population centers.

Trained and equipped by the U.S. and Western allies for nearly two decades, the Afghan security forces, numbering roughly 260,000 men, should be strong enough to prevent the Taliban from seizing power in the immediate aftermath of the American military withdrawal that is nearing completion.

The WSJ’s assessment of the strength of the Afghani government security forces being “strong enough to prevent the Taliban from seizing power in the immediate aftermath,” sounds rosy enough at first glance. But there’s obviously much more to the story than that. They may be able to retain control of Kabul for a while and possibly some other large bases of operation, but that’s only going to last for “the immediate aftermath.”

At some point, all of those forces are going to start running out of the equipment and supplies that have been coming from the Americans and our allies. Making matters worse is that the government security forces are riddled with subversives who routinely show up to conduct attacks from within their own ranks.

An even bigger concern is already showing up with the Afghan government’s airpower capabilities. We have built a rather impressive air force for Afghanistan and trained many of their pilots and support crew to operate it. But as the LA Times is reporting this morning, they are already running out of fuel and the planes are routinely exceeding the maximum number of hours they are allowed to fly. That’s because of all of the districts that have fallen, and with them, control of the roads that connect them all. The government needs to handle all transfers of people and equipment by air, and they just don’t have the resources to keep up the required pace.

And none of this addresses the problem of what will happen to the thousands of translators and other helpers who need to be evacuated from the country but apparently will not be. They are living on borrowed time at this point. For all of the “negotiating” the Taliban did, talking about ceasefires and finding common ground, it once again appears that their word isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. At this rate we’ll be lucky to get our own troops out in one piece without finding ourselves in a scenario similar to the last chopper out of Saigon.