Afghan Forces Overmatch Summer Fight: General
WASHINGTON – A senior US military commander in Afghanistan on Thursday said the Taliban lost the last fighting season against Afghan forces and were on the “edge of strategic defeat.” “Strategically, the tide of the war is not with the Taliban and their fellow travelers. The Taliban recognise that. They know they are on the edge of strategic defeat,” the second-ranking US Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of the US/NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (IJC), told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Kabul.
He said Afghan forces overmatched the insurgency during the summer of 2013, but stressed the need to continue to build Afghan institutions to ensure Afghan security force could continue to stand on their own. “…and then that security force provides the shield to buy the time and space for the rest of the society to develop in health, in education, in government, in economics and so on and so forth.”
“That’s the fundamental premise in order to stabilise this place and prevent it from ever again becoming a haven for terrorists who attack the United States and I think it can work,” continued Lt. Gen. Milley. “I think it is working.” He said Afghan forces, now in the lead of security in their country, bore the brunt of military fatalities during the 2013 fighting season (June to September).
He added the Taliban militants “lost the fight in the summer of 2013 and the ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) acquitted themselves extraordinarily well. During the 2013 fighting season, he said Afghan forces tactically overmatched anything that the Taliban, Haqqani (network), or anybody else could throw at them and they performed extraordinarily well.
“They (Afghan forces) didn’t do that with a whole lot of ISAF or international help,” said the commander. “They had some, we provided that over the summer, but for the most part the Afghans carried the heavy load throughout the summer and I think that’s enormously significant.”
Lt. Gen. Milley said he was confident ISAF would continue to train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces beyond 2014 as he warned the Taliban intended to disrupt the April 2014 elections in Afghanistan, prevent a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington, and prevent a NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) from being reached.
“If a BSA and a NATO SOFA and an election happens that’s generally acceptable to the people of Afghanistan, the Taliban (will) have taken a very mortal blow,” added Milley. According to the commander, the Afghan combat forces were capable of securing the country independently or with very little support from US-led forces.
“The Afghan combat units really do not need, with very few exceptions, tactical advisors with them on combat operations on a day in day out basis. We know that the Afghan battalions can fight. We know they can shoot, move, communicate,” Milley said.” He said that the Taliban had lost popularity and credibility in Afghanistan. “It was clear throughout this summer because of the murdering and suicide bombings and terrorism that the Taliban conducted that their popularity, if you will, declined,” said Lt. Gen. Milley.
“The Taliban have very, very little credibility throughout the country from a political standpoint,” he later added. The strategic goal of the Taliban and their affiliates in Afghanistan was to retake political power, but they were losing largely on that front. “About 80 percent or more of the landmass and 80 percent of the people were actually secured during this last summer fighting season with the ANSF,” he said. (PAN)