What an Afghanistan Victory Looks Like Under the Trump Plan

The Taliban have long-range plans, too. While their attempts to actually hold seized provincial capitals have failed — often because of massive intervention by American air power, aided by special operations troops — many provincial centers remain little more than islands, surrounded by hostile countryside.

Taliban fighters can create roadblocks and ambushes in almost any part of the country, disrupting commerce and exacting an ever-growing human toll. Most of the 3,000 civilians killed annually are victims of the insurgents. And with Taliban control of most of Helmand Province, where 80 percent of Afghanistan’s opium is produced, Taliban coffers are full, both from taxing the drug and trafficking in it.

The insurgents, too, suffer high casualties; one senior American military official put their losses at 10,000 a year. Only five years ago, American military intelligence officials put the Taliban’s entire strength at 20,000 men, yet they seem to have no trouble replenishing their numbers.

Ask the Taliban about that, and they have a ready answer.

Hajji Naqibullah, an insurgent commander from Sangin District, cited Hajji Amanullah, who had 13 members of his family killed in battle, all replaced by his nephews. And Mullah Abdul Salam had four sons killed but his fifth volunteered, and is now a local commander.

Hajji Naqibullah said three

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/world/asia/afghan-victory-trump-plan.html

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