The Taliban rising

Maybe NATO's withdrawal to its Afghanistan bases six months ago was a little premature.  In what increasingly looks like a modern-day Tet Offensive, the Taliban have been moving from their rural strongholds and attacking larger cities in key parts of Afghanistan.

After launching their annual "summer offensive," the fundamentalist fanatics were successful enough to temporarily capture the Chardarah district next to Kunduz city, a provincial capital, last Saturday, killing a dozen Afghan troops and surrounding dozens more.  The Afghan National Army (ANA) relieved the outpost and liberated the trapped soldiers within days, but the point was well-made: even cities held by the government since late 2001 are now at risk of being lost.

During the fighting, residents petrified of the Taliban poured into Kunduz city with children and belongings.  "The Taliban attacked our village and both sides sprayed bullets in all directions," said a 60-year-old Bibi Gul, clutching someone's infant.  "[The Taliban] are not [true] Muslims," she told AFP.

The Taliban followed this up by successfully seizing a second provincial district, called Dashti Archi, leading to a reported 150,000 residents of the district becoming trapped.  The enemy e-mailed to the media its capture, including four tanks and ammunition, of the area.

With U.S. and NATO forces ensconced in their large bases on President Obama's orders, the Taliban has moved north, and the ANA has been left to twist in the wind.

To be sure, it is hard to help Afghanistan's government.  After anti-American obsessive Hamid Karzai left office on December 7, 2014, he was succeeded by the democratically elected President Ashraf Ghani.  But the narrowness of Ghani's election means that Ghani has had to share power with his arch-rival, Abdullah Abdullah, whose title is "chief executive."  The two couldn't agree on naming the all-important defense minister to run the war.  As a result, key war-fighting decisions haven't been made.

Casualties have been high, with 2,300 ANA soldiers and police killed since the start of 2015.  Perhaps a more disturbing sign of things to come is the Tet-like attack on the nation's capital, Kabul, on June 22.  At the entrance to the parliament building, a suicide bomber blew himself up in coordination with six gunmen who then tried to break into the compound.  The Taliban gunmen were all killed by the police guarding the facility, but a woman and a 10-year-old girl were killed, and 31 civilians were injured.

The whole point of the parliament meeting that day was to confirm in office the man finally chosen as defense minister after a vacancy of nine months, Masoom Stanekzai.

The Taliban considered even getting this close a victory.  A Taliban spokesman told the AP by phone that the group had specifically targeted Stanekzai and the parliament itself.  He said the assault showed the "capability of the mujahedeen, who can even attack the parliament in the capital."

If NATO were more interested in not losing a war for which more than 2,000 Americans have died, it would ramp up its training and supply efforts to the ANA, and put allied special forces back in action to serve as spotters for a resumed NATO air campaign.

Christopher S. Carson, a lawyer, holds a master's in national security studies.

Maybe NATO's withdrawal to its Afghanistan bases six months ago was a little premature.  In what increasingly looks like a modern-day Tet Offensive, the Taliban have been moving from their rural strongholds and attacking larger cities in key parts of Afghanistan.

After launching their annual "summer offensive," the fundamentalist fanatics were successful enough to temporarily capture the Chardarah district next to Kunduz city, a provincial capital, last Saturday, killing a dozen Afghan troops and surrounding dozens more.  The Afghan National Army (ANA) relieved the outpost and liberated the trapped soldiers within days, but the point was well-made: even cities held by the government since late 2001 are now at risk of being lost.

During the fighting, residents petrified of the Taliban poured into Kunduz city with children and belongings.  "The Taliban attacked our village and both sides sprayed bullets in all directions," said a 60-year-old Bibi Gul, clutching someone's infant.  "[The Taliban] are not [true] Muslims," she told AFP.

The Taliban followed this up by successfully seizing a second provincial district, called Dashti Archi, leading to a reported 150,000 residents of the district becoming trapped.  The enemy e-mailed to the media its capture, including four tanks and ammunition, of the area.

With U.S. and NATO forces ensconced in their large bases on President Obama's orders, the Taliban has moved north, and the ANA has been left to twist in the wind.

To be sure, it is hard to help Afghanistan's government.  After anti-American obsessive Hamid Karzai left office on December 7, 2014, he was succeeded by the democratically elected President Ashraf Ghani.  But the narrowness of Ghani's election means that Ghani has had to share power with his arch-rival, Abdullah Abdullah, whose title is "chief executive."  The two couldn't agree on naming the all-important defense minister to run the war.  As a result, key war-fighting decisions haven't been made.

Casualties have been high, with 2,300 ANA soldiers and police killed since the start of 2015.  Perhaps a more disturbing sign of things to come is the Tet-like attack on the nation's capital, Kabul, on June 22.  At the entrance to the parliament building, a suicide bomber blew himself up in coordination with six gunmen who then tried to break into the compound.  The Taliban gunmen were all killed by the police guarding the facility, but a woman and a 10-year-old girl were killed, and 31 civilians were injured.

The whole point of the parliament meeting that day was to confirm in office the man finally chosen as defense minister after a vacancy of nine months, Masoom Stanekzai.

The Taliban considered even getting this close a victory.  A Taliban spokesman told the AP by phone that the group had specifically targeted Stanekzai and the parliament itself.  He said the assault showed the "capability of the mujahedeen, who can even attack the parliament in the capital."

If NATO were more interested in not losing a war for which more than 2,000 Americans have died, it would ramp up its training and supply efforts to the ANA, and put allied special forces back in action to serve as spotters for a resumed NATO air campaign.

Christopher S. Carson, a lawyer, holds a master's in national security studies.