An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Gabriel D. Conde at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on May 3. According to the Department of Defense, Conde, 22, of Loveland, Colo., was killed by enemy fire on April 30in the Tagab District of Afghanistan.
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In spite of the presence of 14,000 troops on the ground, hundreds of billions of dollars put into the enterprise and nearly 17 years of pounding at the problem, the situation in Afghanistan is still catastrophic.
All parties there, including the U.S. troops, are entering “the fighting season” — the part of the year when the weather, not too cold, not too hot, is most favorable to combat. Afghanistan’s own armed forces have dropped sharply in numbers, due to desertion (with weapons) and to a high level of casualties.
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Simply put, U.S. strategy toward Afghanistan — building Afghan forces to fight to defend the government in Kabul— has failed.
In addition to the Taliban, the enemy also includes forces affiliated with the Islamic State. Just as in Iraq, the IS has taken advantage of a combat situation involving Americans to introduce itself into the local power equation and to begin killing people as an effective tactic. The latest stunt of IS is to target journalists, with a two-stage attack Monday; at least 25 people were killed, including nine journalists.
There exists no reliable estimate of how much of the territory of Afghanistan is controlled by forces of the Taliban and the IS. Kabul, the capital, jammed with foreign troops, remains in government hands, but not a whole lot else.
Part but not all of the problem of the absence of U.S. and Afghan government success in the country is the corrupt, tribal nature of rule in Afghanistan. Any American who has worked there, unless it is someone who has profited financially from the experience, will testify to the brutal, chaotic nature of government there. Warlords rule much of the place. Women are not in the game. Child sex abuse is normal.
There are no negotiations underway among Afghan parties, including the Taliban, not to mention the IS, who will have to be dealt into an end to the war and a restoration of a functioning Afghan state. The idea of parliamentary elections, in principle scheduled for September, at this point is only a will-o’-the-wisp.
Who would like to try resolving this problem? The only reason for the U.S. to undertake that task would be as a prelude to withdrawing America from a now very long nightmare. The U.S. military can watch for signs of a new 9/11 attack based from Afghanistan with overhead surveillance, so why stay?
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