WASHINGTON – The almost-forgotten U.S. war in Afghanistan is further hindered by a lack of intelligence gathering on the increasing number of Afghan Taliban fighters joining ISIS, whose influence in the country is spreading, even to the point of alarming the Russians, a U.S. intelligence official in the country told Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Consequently, U.S. Special Operations Forces’ ability to control large swaths of Afghanistan has narrowed to mostly around the country’s capital, Kabul, with a few SOF bases in remote areas in the western portion of the country.
Afghan government troops who are undergoing U.S. training are in a similar limited posture in protecting the country from a takeover by either the Taliban or ISIS.
“The (SOFs are) very small elements and don’t have a big impact,” the U.S. intelligence source said. “They do source operations – ineptly but don’t really have that many sources anyway.”
Safe haven for terror
The concern is increasing, even though President Obama said U.S. trainers and SOFs are to remain at a troop level of 9,800 until being drawn down to 5,500 personnel by the end of January 2017.
“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama said last October in announcing a one year extension of U.S. troops in the country.
However, just the opposite is happening.
Gen. John W. Nicholson, who took over command on March 2 in Afghanistan, said the U.S. is behind schedule in training a self-sufficient Afghan security force. The Afghan National Special Operations Forces, or ANSOFs, will be particularly challenged as the Taliban intensifies its operations.
The Taliban just announced it will begin its spring offensive, called Operation Omari, and promised it will be “bloody.”
The prospect raises concern about the future governance of the country and what the U.S. will have to show for its 15 years of fighting, an expenditure of some $2 trillion and the loss of more than 2,000 U.S. service personnel.
“Basically, the Taliban and ISIS are running most of the country,” the intel officer told G2 Bulletin.
“Some Congress critters, intel chiefs and senior military think that if the GIROA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) can’t hold onto Helmand Province – and we’ve limited the amount of handholding – then it’s ‘game over,'” he wrote in an email.
He said ISIS “owns” much of the southwest of the country now, with heavier Taliban resistance toward the border with Pakistan.