The war in Afghanistan is at an “eroding stalemate” after more than 15 years of war, “tipping in the Taliban’s favor,” an unnamed senior administration official told The Washington Post (WaPo).
Pentagon officials have given similar assessments.
The evaluations come as the Taliban expands its influence across the country. By some accounts, the jihadist group controls more territory now than at any time since it was removed from power by the U.S. military in 2001.
Despite the widening of U.S. air support, the White House believes that the war in Afghanistan is tipping in the Taliban’s favor. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation, a senior administration official called the situation in the country an “eroding stalemate.”
President Barack Obama has reportedly decided to extend the time U.S. airstrikes will be assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes police and army units, in their fight against the Taliban.
The Post notes:
Though unannounced at the time, the new strike permissions were meant to be a temporary boost for the Afghan security forces as they fought into the fall, however, according to senior military and administration officials, the airstrikes will continue into the future.
The Taliban has been widening its offensive across Afghanistan, acknowledges the newspaper.
The newfound Western presence [of the Taliban] in Farah comes roughly a week after Taliban fighters began making concerted efforts to seize the city of Farah, the capital of the province. Around the same time, the Taliban began offensives near Helmand’s provincial capital of Lashkar Gah and also managed to enter the northern city of Kunduz before being pushed back to the city’s outskirts after more than a week of heavy fighting.
“What we believe we’re seeing right now is the Taliban trying to make an effort before the end of the year to achieve their 2016 strategic objective of capturing a provincial capital,” said Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the spokesman for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, told The Post in an email.
Last month, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the situation in Afghanistan as a stalemate.
A 108-page Pentagon report submitted to Congress in June also noted, that the ANDSF, which continues to face capability challenges, “will need to demonstrate resiliency and steady improvement to achieve more than a stalemate against the insurgency in the year ahead.”
Citing U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR,) a watchdog agency appointed by Congress, reported at the end of July that the Afghan government had lost control of nearly one-third of the country, primarily to the Taliban.
All of Helmand, a southern Afghan province that borders Pakistan and has been a traditional Taliban stronghold, is close to falling into the hands of the terrorist group.