Taliban could force ‘existential crisis’ in Afghanistan, US watchdog says

The Taliban’s surge in Afghanistan as the United States completes its withdrawal could lead to an “existential crisis,” a U.S. oversight report said.

The situation in Afghanistan is “bleak,” and the “overall trend is clearly unfavorable to the Afghan government,” a letter from the Special Inspector General John Sopko that accompanied Wednesday’s quarterly report to Congress read.

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The number of enemy-initiated attacks has increased since the U.S.-Taliban agreement of February 2020, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s report to Congress. There were 6,700 enemy-initiated attacks from December 2019 through February 2020, and in each quarter since, there have been no fewer than 9,100 such attacks, the report said. Effective enemy-initiated attacks, referring to a subset of enemy-initiated attacks that produced casualties, in the quarters since the deal was signed are also up, though the most recent quarter saw a dip compared to the one before it.

The report also noted that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces appeared to be “unready” for the Taliban offensive that “accelerated” in June and July.

“The [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] has retaken some districts and the Afghan government still controls all 34 provincial capitals, including Kabul, but from public reporting, the ANDSF appeared surprised and unready, and is now on its back foot,” Sopko said. “Civilian casualties hit a record high in May and June, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.”

There were 2,035 civilian casualties reported in April and May, which is nearly as high as the three months from January through March of this year, the report added.

The special inspector also described a handful of issues plaguing the Afghan forces, saying that most Afghan National Army troops refuse to execute missions without support for them from the country’s special operations corps, according to NATO’s Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan. The report added that when they are deployed, they are “misused to perform tasks intended for conventional forces such as route clearance, checkpoint security, and quick-reaction force.”

Additionally, the Afghan air force’s readiness dropped in June, with the AC-208 fleet earning a 63% readiness rating in June compared to a rating of 93% in April and May. The report noted that the “crews remain overtasked due to the security situation in Afghanistan and the OPSTEMPO has only increased,” according to Training Advisory Assistance Command-Air.

Last week, Haji Ajmal Rahmani, an Afghan member of Parliament, said Afghan air force pilots have run out of laser-guided weaponry due to the sudden loss of support from the U.S. and NATO after President Joe Biden decided to exit Afghanistan.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said the Afghan government needs to do what it can to “slow the momentum” of the Taliban’s encroachment and “then be able to put themselves in a position where they can retake … some of the ground that they’ve lost.”

The anticipated end date for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is Aug. 31, which was moved up from the scheduled Sept. 11 end date.

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Tags: News, Afghanistan, War in Afghanistan, Defense, troops, Taliban

Original Author: Mike Brest

Original Location: Taliban could force ‘existential crisis’ in Afghanistan, US watchdog says

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