The Slow Burn Of The Taliban: Recent Rash Of Attacks Leave Scores Dead In Afghanistan

An estimated 40 Taliban fighters have been killed by Afghan security forces in the southern Helmand in a gun fight that lasted for 12 hours, according to Aljazeera.

Insurgents attacked a market in the central Gereshk district on the morning of Friday the August 4th, Afghan news outlet TOLOnews reported. The attack came after a particularly bloody week, telling of the diminishing capacity of the Afghan security forces to check spreading Taliban encroachment. The day prior, five security officials were killed in a car bombing near an Afghan forces checkpoint in the same district. The Taliban later claimed the attack.

On the same day, Taliban assaulted in the Kabul district that killed one NATO soldier and wounded six Afghan security personnel. The Taliban have reasserted their grip on the Helmand province since the U.S. led coalition troops withdrew from the province three years ago, leaving Afghan security forces desperate for support and without the capacity to answer to the Taliban. Only a handful of cities remains free from insurgent control in the province as the death toll continues to mount. Aljazeera reported 2,531 Afghan security forces were killed in the first four months of 2017.

The Trump administration has provided no answer as to whether greater support will be given to Afghanistan. A surge of 4,000 addition U.S. troops were expected to have been approved in 2017, the first since 2011, but indecision and incompetence from within the U.S. administration has left Afghanistan hanging. President Trump questioned “why we’ve been there 17 years,” according to the Guardian. It is America’s longest war, and one which looks unlikely they’ll win.

The questionable U.S. motivation for entering Afghanistan remains, but for all the years of combat, America has yet to provide a legitimate answer as to how to provide the best help. There is no room to remiss on Afghanistan pre-invasion, nor how a theoretical non-military track of American foreign policy could have benefited the region in 2003. The present reality remains: America did lead the NATO coalition, and now here they are 17 years later-failing to fulfil the obligation to the civilian population in the same time they entered the country.

The length of the war presents new ideological challenges. A former presidential envoy to Helmand, Abdul Jabbar Qahraman notes the ideological shift: “…the next generation will join the Taliban. The insurgency used to be mostly a business. Now it’s also about revenge.”

The incapacity of the Afghan state, evidenced by an empty government school in Helmand, is in stark contrast to the new mosques funded by private businessmen, built as Taliban madrasahs.

The effect is clear on civilians: adult women are invisible in Taliban controlled provinces, as Afghan security forces falter. There is no means for girls to seek education. As well, suspected suicide among women in Taliban controlled regions are on the rise, according to the Guardian. Local security forces left hanging after the rapid U.S. withdrawal (only a third received their salary according to the Guardian) , have very little ways to make the ends meet: when the insurgents arrive, men either flee the area, or join. According to Haji Baz Gul (1,500 strong unit commander against the Taliban in Helmand), the Taliban is winning both land and support due to the collapse of American support.

The country is tired after 17 years of war and only to result in a regression on women and civil rights. Hostilities are futile to achieve peace. A peace negotiation between Afghan state and the Taliban seems to be the only viable option for enduring peace, as many fighting the Taliban have noted. How just this would be remains unclear, however, as women continue to be targeted under the insurgent interpretation of Sharia law. There is nowhere else for Afghans to flee to. NATO’s obligation to support the Afghan state, through capacity building, resources, and asking mediation, is clearer than ever.