Taliban Forces Exert Increasing Influence Over Territory in Afghanistan
In the past six months, the Taliban has made notable gains in the amount of territory it controls in Afghanistan, ruling 13 percent of the nation’s 407 districts as of August 2017, a 2 percent increase since February 2017. This information is reported by SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan.
These newly released statistics describe the impact of numerous Taliban-led attacks on civilians and military personnel in Afghanistan within the last few months. On Oct. 19, the Taliban killed 58 Afghan security forces in an attack that involved at least 2 suicide car bombers. Earlier in August, a joint Taliban-ISIS attack killed dozens, including civilians and armed forces, in Afghanistan’s Sayad District. In this incident, the central government ignored demands for more air and special force support, stating that the air force was already engaged with conflicts in other districts.
The conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government has already taken the lives of many civilians, as a UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan report cited by the SIGAR brief stated. In fact, according to the report, there had been a “52% increase in civilian casualties from coalition and Afghan air strikes in the first nine months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.”
These troubling figures display Afghanistan’s growing inability to maintain national security in the face of mounting attacks and the lack of foreign support, which has been decreasing since 2014. With 700,000 Afghan citizens living in districts where the Taliban has a degree of influence, the Afghan government’s battle against the insurgents appears to be getting increasingly difficult.
Luckily, additional support from the United States in the fight against the Taliban represents welcome news to Afghanistan. Just seven days ago, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense voiced approval of reports stating the United States CIA had decided to increase air attacks on the Taliban. This decision is part of Trump’s overall plan to increase US presence in Afghanistan, announced earlier this September. The plan involves the deployment of several thousand US troops into Afghanistan, who will attempt to curb the insurgents’ attacks, increase stability in the region, and hopefully force the Taliban to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.
It’ll be interesting to see the effect of US assistance on Afghanistan’s stability, considering how the Taliban hasn’t been this strong since foreign aid decreased significantly three years ago. Not only is the US willing to provide Afghanistan with its own troops and military training, but it’s also trying to draw other nations into the conflict to support the Afghan government. For example, citing the growing threat the Taliban poses to South Asian security, the US suggested the possibility of cutting aid to Pakistan if it refused to help more in Afghanistan earlier in August.
It is still uncertain whether or not Pakistan will actually increase its support for the Afghan government due to the US’ threat, but it remains important to note the US’ willingness to increase pressure on Afghanistan’s neighboring nations. The directness of the threat shows just how dangerous the Taliban situation grows day by day in Afghanistan.