War in Afghanistan (2015–present)
The war in Afghanistan (2015–present) refers to the period of the war in Afghanistan following the 2001–2014 phase led by the United States of America. The U.S.-led war followed the September 11 attacks, and it aimed to dismantle al-Qaeda by denying it a safe basis of operation in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power. After 2001, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) became increasingly involved, eventually running combat operations, under the direction of a U.S. commander. On 28 December 2014, NATO formally ended combat operations in Afghanistan and transferred full security responsibility to the Afghan government via a ceremony in Kabul, marking the beginning of the new phase of the conflict.
The planned partial Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as well as NATO troops, and the transfer of all combat roles from NATO forces to the Afghan security forces occurred between 2011 and 2014. A bilateral security agreement was signed between the US and Afghanistan that would allow NATO troops to remain after the withdrawal date in an advisory and counter-terrorism capacity. The NATO troop presence would amount to approximately 13,000 troops including 9,800 Americans.
Withdrawal of Western troops
As early as November 2012, the U.S. was considering the precise configuration of their post-2014 presence in Afghanistan. On 27 May 2014, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end in December 2014. A residual force of 9,800 troops would remain in the country, training Afghan security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against remnants of al-Qaeda. This force would be halved by the end of 2015, and consolidated at Bagram Air Base and in Kabul. Obama also announced that all U.S. forces, with the exception of a "normal embassy presence," would be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. These plans were confirmed with the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan on 30 September 2014.
The Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan, the remnant U.S./NATO special forces organisation, includes a counter-terrorism task force. In the words of the U.S. Special Operations Command Factbook for 2015, this task force '..[c]onducts offensive operations in Afghanistan to degrade the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Networks in order to prevent them from establishing operationally significant safe havens which threaten the stability and sovereignty of Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States.' This task force is similar to previous forces such as Task Force 373.
2015: Afghan forces take the lead
On 5 January, a suicide car bomber attacked the HQ of EUPOL Afghanistan in Kabul, killing 1 person and injuring 5. The Taliban claimed responsibility. On January 15, Afghan security officials arrested five men in Kabul in relation to their suspected involvement in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre in Pakistan. In mid-January 2015, it was revealed that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had an active presence in Afghanistan, and that they were trying to recruit more fighters. and have clashed with the local Taliban. However, an Afghan military officer stated that he believed the Afghan military could handle any threat that the group presented in the country.
American forces have increased raids against "Islamist militants", moving beyond counter-terrorism missions. This is partially due to improved relations with the United States due to the Ghani presidency. Reasoning used for these raids include protecting American forces, which has been broadly interpreted. One raid, a joint raid by American and Afghan forces arrested six Taliban connected to the 2014 Peshawar school massacre. American Secretary of Defense Ash Carter traveled to Afghanistan in February 2015; during a period when it was discussed that the U.S. would slow down its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In February 2015, the headquarters element of the U.S. 7th Infantry Division began to deploy to Afghanistan. It will serve as the Resolute Support Mission's Train Advise Assist Command - South headquarters. It will be joined by 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
On 18 March 2015, Hafiz Wahidi, ISIL's replacement deputy Emir in Afghanistan, was killed by the Afghan Armed Forces, along with 9 other ISIL militants who were accompanying him.
On 19 March 2015, it was reported by Reuters that the U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, a senior U.S. official said, as the Federal Government of the United States considers slowing its military withdrawal to help the new government fight the Taliban. The anticipated policy reversal reflects U.S. support of Afghanistan's new and more cooperative president, Ashraf Ghani, and a desire to avoid the collapse of local security forces that occurred in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal there.
Afghan security forces
Afghan National Army
U.S. policy called for boosting the Afghan National Army to 134,000 soldiers by October 2010. By May 2010 the Afghan Army had accomplished this interim goal and was on track to reach its ultimate number of 171,000 by 2011. This increase in Afghan troops allowed the U.S. to begin withdrawing its forces in July 2011.
In 2010, the Afghan National Army had limited fighting capacity. Even the best Afghan units lacked training, discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one new unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers had been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting. Some were suspected of collaborating with the Taliban. "They don't have the basics, so they lay down," said Capt. Michael Bell, who was one of a team of U.S. and Hungarian mentors tasked with training Afghan soldiers. "I ran around for an hour trying to get them to shoot, getting fired on. I couldn't get them to shoot their weapons." In addition, 9 out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army were illiterate.
In early 2015, Philip Munch of the Afghanistan Analysts' Network wrote that '..the available evidence suggests that many senior ANSF members, in particular, use their positions to enrich themselves. Within the ANSF there are also strong external loyalties to factions who themselves compete for influence and access to resources. All this means that the ANSF may not work as they officially should. Rather it appears that the political economy of the ANSF prevents them from working like modern organisations - the very prerequisite' of the Resolute Support Mission. Formal and informal income, Munch said, which can be generated through state positions, is rent-seeking - income without a corresponding investment of labour or capital. 'Reportedly, ANA appointees also often maintain clients, so that patron-client networks, structured into competing factions, can be traced within the ANA down to the lowest levels... There is evidence that Afghan officers and officials, especially in the higher echelons, appropriate large parts of the vast resource flows which are directed by international donors into the ANA.
Afghan National Police
The Afghan National Police provides support to the Afghan army. Police officers in Afghanistan are also largely illiterate. Approximately 17 percent of them tested positive for illegal drugs in 2010. They were widely accused of demanding bribes. Attempts to build a credible Afghan police force were faltering badly, according to NATO officials. A quarter of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government's goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve.
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- War in North-West Pakistan
- Afghanistan–United States relations
- Criticism of the War on Terror
- Ethnic conflict
- NATO logistics in the Afghan War
- Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan
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