Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
The American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War has a new report out that says rather unequivocally that the United States is starting to turn the war around in southern Afghanistan following the surge. Since the deployment of U.S. Marines to Helmand in 2009 and the launch of an offensive there followed by operations in Kandahar, the Taliban has effectively lost all its main safe havens in the region, authors Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan argue.
The Taliban assassination squad in Kandahar has ben dismantled, the insurgents’ ability to acquire, transport and use IED materials and other weapons has been disrupted, and narcotics facilitators and financiers who link the drug market to the insurgency have been aggressively targeted. Above all, NATO and Afghan forces continue to hold all the areas they have cleared in the two provinces, arguably the heart of the insurgency, which is a significant departure from the past.
The war is far from over, large parts of the country remain under insurgent control, and there is limited, if not negligent political progress in the areas re-taken from the Taliban. But the momentum of the insurgency in the south has unquestionably been arrested and probably reversed, the authors say.
Is the ground really shifting, and if so, what’s behind this breakthrough ? Part of the reason is the arrival of 30,000 U.S. troops under the surge which military commanders said was necessary to make a dent in an insurgency at its deadliest since 2001. Another 1,400 Marines have just been ordered , all part of efforts to crush the Taliban so America can make an honourable ext from its longest war yet. But it is not just more troops that General David Petraeus has thrown at the resilient Taliban.