Some Afghan security forces trained by the United States are defecting to the Taliban, CNN reports.
The U.S. has invested more than a decade and nearly $70 billion in taxpayer funds to develop the Afghan security forces, officially known as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Nonetheless, the ANDSF, made up of army, police, and militia units, is still struggling to hold the Taliban from gaining territory.
“Desertion is rife within the ranks,” reports CNN, which “met two deserters in Helmand whose stories show the breadth of the problem, who have taken their skills — months of U.S. taxpayer-funded training — to the Taliban.”
The two deserters were reportedly still in possession of their ANDSF uniforms, army IDs, and their cards used to withdraw their official wages from banks.
“I did 18 months of army training and took an oath to serve this country,” one deserter told CNN. “But the situation changed. The army let us down, so we had to come to the Taliban, who treat us like guests.”
“I decided to leave the army when my dead and injured comrades lay in our base, and nobody took them to hospital. My army training is very useful now, as I am training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge,” added the deserter.
The Taliban currently controls more than one-third of Helmand (5 of 13 districts), Afghanistan’s largest province and one of the highest opium-producing areas, which provides a source of revenue for the terrorists.
Helmand, which lies on the Pakistan border next to Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, has been one of the deadliest regions for U.S.-led international troops in the nearly 15-year war.
“Despite Afghan government assurances that the army can hold and retake ground, the strategic province that hundreds of NATO troops — who have been in the country for the last 15 years — died fighting for is closer than ever to falling to the Taliban,” reports CNN, referring to Helmand.
The ANDSF has had some success in securing heavily populated urban centers across Afghanistan.
However, Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, is at risk of falling into the hands of the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai told CNN, “It will not fall. If it falls, there is no doubt I will resign, but it will not fall.”
Some analysts suggest the Taliban controls more territory now than when the U.S. removed it from power in 2001.
Afghan civilians and security forces suffered record casualties, primarily at the hands of the Taliban last year. The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), which has engaged the Taliban in turf battles, is reportedly trying to expand its presence in Afghanistan.