Senior US military commanders are now considering keeping troops in Afghanistan for decades, which marks a major shift in its thinking. In the past 10 years, Pentagon has been focused on making arrangements to exit from Afghanistan and Iraq. But today, there is broad consensus that a long-term effort is needed for building an effective local army and police force.
This mindset stems in part from the US military’s painful experience in Iraq. After American forces left in 2011, Iraqi army forces collapsed in less than three years. As of now, the 9800 US troops in Afghanistan are primarily taking up advisory roles to train local forces as well as participating in hunts for hard-line militants.
The Afghan government has so far been overwhelmed by an uptick in militant attacks. In Helmand province, Afghan forces have been struggling to fend off persistent Taliban attacks due to a combination of poor leadership, lack of weapons and low troop morale.
So far, US troops have stepped in to stop immediate losses through conducing direct airstrikes and provide help with planning. More importantly, it sought to build a sustainable Afghan fighting force that a senior military official admits will likely to take many years to complete.
In recent years, Afghanistan has been witnessing resurgence in terrorist groups. This includes the Taliban who overran the key northern provincial capital of Kunduz last September. A local branch of the Islamic State is also seeking to establish itself in the southwest of the country.