As more NATO troops are heading to Afghanistan, and with Australian military personnel still remaining in this tormented land, the million dollar question which has eluded Western leaders since 2001 still remains: what would/does victory in Afghanistan look like? At what point in time, will NATO decide mission is accomplished in Afghanistan?
Would this be when Afghanistan becomes a democracy, its tribal areas civilize, and all Islamist elements depart the country?
For too long Afghanistan has been an obviously unwinnable war, and NATO desperately needs to find a practical means to withdraw from this endless conflict.
The Telegraph, Rob Crilly, April 31, 2017:
More British troops could be on their way to Afghanistan as part of a Nato plan to increase force numbers to help the country’s embattled government fight a resurgent Taliban.
International military officers have watched with alarm as Kabul’s territorial control has slipped to little more than half the war-racked nation, according to US estimates, amid accusations that Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban.
In an interview with a German newspaper, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary general, said the “challenging” security situation meant the alliance was weighing a plan to increase the number of personnel in its Resolute Support mission beyond the current level of 13,000.
Nato will make its decision by June on any troop increase and on whether to lengthen deployments which currently run for a year, he was quoted by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper as saying.
He added that Nato could become more engaged in Jordan and Tunisia, calling both “islands of stability” in an unstable region.
The British deployment to Afghanistan amounts to about 500 personnel.
They are mostly deployed to provide security around the capital Kabul but also include special forces commandos.
The UK keeps troop levels under constant review in line with Nato needs but it is understand that the Ministry of Defence has not yet received any formal request for an increase.
A reminder of the international threat posed by Afghanistan surfaced in recent reports that Mohammed Khalid Omar Ali, 27, who is in custody for a suspected attack on Downing Street after being arrested with a bag full of knives, spent several years in the country, returning only recently.
The growing instability has prompted US leader Donald Trump’s new administration to review its Afghanistan strategy. Officials say they are considering sending as many as 5000 more troops.
The decision could be announced later in May when Mr Trump travels to Nato headquarters in Brussels for a security summit.
That raises the risk of Afghanistan’s 15-year war – already America’s longest – degenerating into a proxy conflict between Nato and Russia, reflecting the 1980s when the US and the Soviet Union backed opposing sides.
On Sunday, Mr Trump’s national security adviser again accused Russia of arming the Taliban and destabilising the region simply as a knee-jerk response to Nato support for Kabul.
HR McMaster told Fox News the impact was to destabilise the region, unleashing Taliban-linked groups at war with Moscow. “So here you have a Russian president acting against the Russian people’s interest and doing it, I think, just reflexively.”
Nato ended its combat mission in 2014, handing responsibility for security to Afghan security forces. Since then, military and civilian casualties have risen and the influence of the central government has waned.
Much of America’s recent focus has been directed at a small branch of Isil. Last month, the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on a network of caves used by the group.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has announced the start of its spring offensive as it tries to win more territory.
In a further sign of Afghanistan’s regression, American marines have returned to Helmand, the scene of years of heavy fighting. It was where the vast bulk of Britain’s 454 casualties died as international forces tried to stop the province falling to the Taliban.
The presence of international forces could not prevent another bloody week. The Afghan military is still reeling from a Taliban attack that killed 135 young recruits at one of its northern bases.