BREAKING NEWS : Former neighbor charged with murder of Wilma Ball Full Story

17 years in, Afghan war at a 'stalemate'

More than a year after President Donald Trump announced his administration's new strategy for achieving succ...

Posted: Nov 28, 2018 8:10 AM
Updated: Nov 28, 2018 8:10 AM

More than a year after President Donald Trump announced his administration's new strategy for achieving success in Afghanistan and the wider region, the situation remains decidedly mixed with the conflict at a "stalemate." Still, some senior officials feel there are some reasons for cautious optimism on the diplomatic front.

And though the casualty rate for US troops is far lower than it was earlier in the conflict, Americans are still losing their lives 17 years into the war with three US service members killed in a bombing on Tuesday.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan war

Armed forces

Asia

Conflicts and wars

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Military

Misc organizations

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

South Asia

Taliban

The Americas

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

US federal government

White House

A fourth service member was killed earlier this week with the US military saying he was accidentally shot by Afghan troops while the joint US-Afghan force was combating al Qaeda elements, the group that the US went to Afghanistan to fight some 17 years ago.

On Tuesday, Trump laid out his rationale for keeping US troops in the country telling the Washington Post, "We're there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don't go there, they're going to be fighting over here."

Tuesday's deadly attack took place in Ghazni Province, an area where the Taliban have sought to wrest control of the provincial capital and have stepped up attacks against government security forces. But the insurgents have been unable to hold any major populated areas and are pushed back by Afghan troops supported by NATO advisers and US airstrikes.

The situation there is emblematic of the wider military campaign -- the Taliban is unable to take major cities or towns but the Afghan security forces, despite receiving some additional US support, are unable to put an end to the insurgency.

While US troops have suffered casualties this year, they are largely serving in a supporting role with local Afghan forces doing most of the fighting. Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani recently announcing that some 29,000 Afghan soldiers and police had been killed or wounded since 2015. US casualties during that same period declined sharply as they largely shifted away from direct combat.

"We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much," Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a conference in Halifax last month.

Outside experts agree with Dunford's characterization.

Stalemate

"It's not entirely static but for the most part it's a stalemate," Stephen Tankel, an adjunct fellow at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, told CNN.

"The Taliban remain on the offensive" but are "unable to seize and maintain control over population centers" Scott DesMarais, an Afghanistan-focused researcher for the Institute for the Study of War, told CNN.

While US officials have acknowledged that the military situation remains in a stalemate, with some 65% of the population under Afghan government control or influence, officials have said that non-military factors, including efforts toward a settlement aimed at reconciliation, have progressed.

Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was recently named the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation and has traveled repeatedly to the region for discussions with national governments and the Taliban to try to jump-start a dialogue.

But senior US officials have also cautioned the US is "a long way," from being able to say that point of reconciliation with the Taliban has been reached.

"I think we are a long way," Dunford said while speaking in Halifax.

Speaking about the reconciliation efforts last week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters "we're doing what we can to support Ambassador Khalilzad. He is firmly in control now and acting very much in an energetic way, I would put it acting energetically to engage with Saudi help, United Arab Emirates help and Qatari help to get the reconciliation talks going."

Mattis would not characterize the nature of those talks, simply saying "they're active."

Hopes for a reconciliation

Hopes for a reconciliation were buttressed earlier this year when the Taliban and Afghan government participated in a brief nationwide ceasefire. Yet the Taliban rejected a similar subsequent ceasefire proposal and fighting has resumed.

The prospects of a grand reconciliation are made more difficult by various factions within the Taliban and the Afghan government.

"You might still see fracturing inside the Taliban or inside the Afghan government" should reconciliation talks progress DesMarais said.

"Shifting political alliances within the Afghan government in advance of the 2019 presidential election may undermine the ability of Afghan political leaders to remain unified during any peace negotiations," the Pentagon's Inspector General Report on the war in Afghanistan said earlier this month.

"These types of processes take a long time, they never move as quickly as people want them to," Tankel said.

And some experts warn against a US Afghan policy that is overly reliant on a possible reconciliation with the Taliban, saying that doing so would actually weaken the chances of such a reconciliation taking place.

Doing so "gives away any negotiating leverage and reduces the odds of any deal" Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution told CNN.

"There needs to be an explanation about how we can protect our core interests without a negotiated deal," O'Hanlon added.

And another part of the Trump administration strategy, getting Pakistan to exert pressure on the Taliban to force them to the negotiating table, has also not been as successful as officials had wanted, despite the US suspending over $1.66 billion in military aid.

O'Hanlon and Tankel both said that the decision on the way forward in Afghanistan will come down largely to what Trump decides.

Will Trump pull US troops out?

"There's absolutely no political demand this war should be ended," O'Hanlon said, adding "there's very little intensity around the Afghan issue in American politics."

While some Democrats, including the likely future chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, questioned the Trump administration's strategy for South Asia when it was announced, observers don't think it will be a major political issue.

"If Trump wants to he will be able to" end it, O'Hanlon added, saying there is "no passion in favor of sustaining it."

"Nobody knows if Trump could wake up on any given day and end the US presence in Afghanistan via tweet," Tankel said.

But the President's comments to the Washington Post on Tuesday suggest leaving isn't on his agenda at the moment and all three experts CNN talked to warned about the consequences of a premature withdrawal, saying that without the military pressure exerted by the Afghan forces and their US advisers, international terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the local ISIS affiliate, ISIS-K, could experience a resurgence and threaten countries around the world.

O'Hanlon added that that some senior military or defense officials could resign if Trump decides to reject their advice and pursue an abrupt withdrawal.

"I thought he was correct to make the mission open ended," O'Hanlon said, while adding "if we find we're not making headway, I think we should reevaluate."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 775686

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1066871814
Lake572681031
Allen43500701
Hamilton37653427
St. Joseph37508568
Elkhart29882471
Tippecanoe23732232
Vanderburgh23634405
Porter19690327
Johnson19020394
Hendricks18271323
Clark13730199
Madison13719348
Vigo12949256
Monroe12691180
LaPorte12645225
Delaware11218198
Howard10832237
Kosciusko9851124
Hancock8855150
Bartholomew8343157
Warrick8216157
Floyd8128183
Grant7457181
Boone7289105
Wayne7273201
Morgan6988143
Marshall6376117
Dubois6327118
Cass6130112
Noble607391
Dearborn605878
Henry6001111
Jackson520977
Shelby514898
Lawrence5020128
Gibson471697
Montgomery464792
Clinton462755
DeKalb461485
Harrison459277
Huntington429082
Whitley421045
Steuben414561
Miami411573
Jasper403957
Knox397291
Putnam388762
Wabash373884
Adams358956
Ripley354571
Jefferson351487
White341854
Daviess3110100
Wells305981
Greene298485
Decatur294393
Posey288235
Fayette287764
Scott285458
LaGrange278873
Clay277649
Washington257638
Randolph248583
Jennings243349
Spencer240531
Fountain239050
Starke231559
Owen226759
Sullivan224143
Fulton210446
Jay204132
Carroll200623
Orange194456
Perry193139
Vermillion183444
Rush179127
Tipton174348
Franklin173935
Parke157816
Pike144034
Blackford138732
Pulaski124748
Newton124137
Benton111615
Brown106743
Crawford106716
Martin92715
Warren88715
Switzerland8568
Union73910
Ohio58711
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1132798

Reported Deaths: 20530
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1312911496
Cuyahoga1180592268
Hamilton830231263
Montgomery541901064
Summit491891018
Lucas43982835
Butler40324615
Stark34056941
Lorain26232511
Warren25125312
Mahoning22881614
Lake21602397
Clermont20592261
Delaware19295138
Licking16977227
Fairfield16959207
Trumbull16940493
Medina16019278
Greene15721254
Clark14439309
Portage13548219
Wood13411201
Allen12124245
Richland11870214
Miami11140229
Wayne9344228
Columbiana9282236
Muskingum9207137
Pickaway8796123
Marion8774140
Tuscarawas8756257
Erie8220166
Ashtabula7318180
Hancock7080135
Ross7070165
Geauga7032153
Scioto6887108
Belmont6261179
Lawrence6033106
Union595149
Jefferson5787162
Huron5678122
Sandusky5536130
Darke5476131
Seneca5391128
Washington5391111
Athens528660
Auglaize510587
Mercer492885
Shelby487798
Knox4678112
Ashland450198
Madison450066
Defiance444599
Fulton443275
Putnam4366104
Crawford4152112
Brown414163
Preble3988107
Logan396379
Clinton395667
Ottawa378281
Highland370768
Williams361878
Champaign351760
Guernsey334054
Jackson324954
Perry300550
Morrow298544
Fayette291350
Hardin280465
Henry279067
Coshocton275161
Holmes2735102
Van Wert254465
Gallia254150
Adams253658
Pike247137
Wyandot236557
Hocking224163
Carroll203349
Paulding181542
Meigs153940
Monroe139446
Noble138739
Harrison115738
Morgan112024
Vinton88217
Unassigned04
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 62°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 62°
Van Wert
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
The heat and humidity builds into the region as we head into the weekend.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events