Published: Fri, February 10, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

US Commander Says Fight Against Taliban In Afghanistan Is A Stalemate

The U.S. and its allies immediately saw this as a sign that Russian Federation wants to use Hekmatyar, an Afghan politician and warlord, "as a template for future talks with the Taliban".

Gen John Nicholson told the US Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough forces for counter-terror operations. Special Forces soldier had been severely wounded in a firefight in the flashpoint Sangin area of Afghanistan's southwestern Helmand province, the center of the country's flourishing poppy trade.

If Russia is aiding the Taliban in more concrete ways, the USA needs to retaliate. This is a "false narrative", he said.

Nicholson contended that Russian Federation has been publicly legitimizing the Taliban by claiming that the militants are fighting Islamic terrorists while the Afghan government is not. "That conversation has yet to happen", said spokesman Sean Spicer when asked about Nicholson's request.

"Additional forces would enable us to thicken our advisory effort across the Afghan ministries and do more advising below the core level", Nicholson said. Previous commanders of the 215th were sacked because of corruption and poor leadership. "However, I personally believe that this effort we're undertaking there is protecting the homeland and preventing these terrorists from bringing their fight to our doorstep".

But he also said a fully operational Afghan Air Force is still some years away.

The assessment of a "stalemate" is not new, and is a very generous interpretation of the state of the Afghan War, over 15 years in, as the Afghan government has actually been losing ground left and right, holding less territory now than at any time since the occupation began.

Moscow - which fears instability in the Central Asian nations located between Russian Federation and Afghanistan - has been a lukewarm ally of US coalition efforts there, allowing its territory to be used to transport personnel and materiel.

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To break the stalemate, Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and NATO's Resolute Support mission, said that he had discussed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford the possibility of putting more troops into Afghanistan, either from the U.S. or from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and other countries from the coalition.

The top American military leader in Afghanistan doesn't think the winning the war in that country.

"I have adequate resourcing in my counterterrorism mission", the general said. "In my train, advise and assist mission, however, we have a shortfall of a few thousand".

In the course of the hearing, Nicholson returned several times to the new threat of Russian influence in Afghanistan that he said began to surface a year ago.

Iran and Pakistan, which has long had intelligence ties to the Taliban, had also significantly complicated the fight waged by the Afghan military, Nicholson said.

Prior to the new order, US airstrikes and other assistance was largely limited to protecting American forces and rescuing Afghan forces in extreme circumstances, such as preventing a key town from falling into Taliban control. "Reconstructing Afghanistan has now become the largest expenditure to rebuild a single country in our nation's history", he said. He pointed to recent talks in Moscow of representatives of the Taliban and Iran from which the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani was excluded. The Kremlin is attempting to legitimize the Taliban by claiming the terrorist group is fighting the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State in Khorasan, he explained.

Deciding how to proceed with the mission in Afghanistan will be among the first major tests of defense policy for President Donald Trump.

Under questioning from Sen. In the more contested parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan, only small groups of Special Operations troops can accompany Afghan forces battling the Taliban and ISIS, and their effect is limited due to their small number.

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