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After 16 Years of War, What’s Happening in Afghanistan?

by Countable | Updated on 3.15.18

Monday marked the 6,000th day of the war in Afghanistan, and with the U.S. ramping up its military presence to support the Afghan government’s campaign against the Taliban insurgency we wanted to breakdown where things stand.

How has the U.S. mission in Afghanistan evolved?

  • The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 with the goal of defeating Al Qaeda and removing the Taliban government, which allowed the terror group led by Osama bin Laden to operate freely within its territory and ultimately launch the September 11 attacks.

  • While the Taliban was quickly removed from power by the U.S.-led coalition, many of its members survived the initial invasion and started an insurgency targeting coalition forces and the fledgling Afghan government in the years after 2001.

  • In response the U.S. deployed more troops to fight the Taliban, as troop levels surpassed 20,000 for the first time in 2004 and rose to about 30,000 by the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. In an effort to counter gains made by the Taliban, President Barack Obama increased troop levels to 100,000 in 2011.

  • During his second term as president Obama began a drawdown of U.S. military personnel, reducing troop levels to about 10,000 in 2015 when the combat mission was declared over and remaining troops largely focused on training Afghan security forces.

  • Over the course of the campaign more than 2,200 Americans have been killed and thousands more wounded. Casualties among U.S. troops reached their peak at 499 killed in 2010, and have declined into double digits annually since 2014.

What’s happening now?

  • Since 2015, the Taliban insurgency has stepped up in intensity and terror groups such as ISIS and the Haqqani network have been increasingly active in Afghanistan.

  • Since the election of President Donald Trump, the U.S. has adopted a more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan — increasing troop levels to about 16,000 personnel.

  • Most of the U.S. personnel now in Afghanistan are providing training and assistance to the Afghan military rather than engaging in direct combat, although increasing numbers of special operators are active in the field providing assistance with airstrikes.

What is the endgame?

  • After more than 16 years of war against the Taliban it’s unlikely that the U.S.-led coalition will be able deliver a decisive victory over the insurgency.

  • Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has said that victory in Afghanistan will ultimately come through peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

What do you think the U.S. should do about Afghanistan and the Taliban? Hit Take Action to tell your reps, then join the conversation below!

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: gorodenkoff / iStock)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(54)
  • OlderNWiser
    03/15/2018
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    We are invading countries with very different cultures, beliefs, worldviews, including religious beliefs, imposing our will on them, terrorizing their children, killing them with drones, and then wondering why they don’t admire us? In a never-ending unconstitutional war? Seems more like imperialism to me. Vietnam 2.0. We spend vast sums of money for the private gain of our arms manufacturers, private killing groups, and pretend that endless war has to be and there are no alternatives. How strange that Costa Rica prospers without an army, with protecting the environment, and with taking care of their people while the USA pretends that peace, caring for all of life, and caring for each other all be impossible. We could be a peaceful nation, protecting the planet and all life, and taking care of each other.

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  • Gerald
    03/15/2018
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    What do you think you will achieve? Victory? It is endless. You can not impose a government on a people even if you think it is an improvement. You are seen as the invader. You are not of their religion. You are between Iran and Pakistan and Russia and nobody will support you. We killed Bin Laden. Now come home. If the Afghan people can’t fight and defeat the Taliban on their own, then they will live under Taliban rule. Not our problem. This is now a war of Trump ego. Can’t lose, The all mighty defeated ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he can’t lose to the Taliban. No more American kids killed, no more billions from our treasury, no more war. For those familiar with Vietnam, remember our exit strategy was Vietnamization...training a South Vietnamese army to fight and assume responsibility for their own defense...How’d that work out? Ten thousand more dead, and after we finally left, their army collapsed within a few months. Deja Vu. Get out, not after another thousand are killed, get out now. The results are going to be the same.

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  • IllWill
    03/15/2018
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    Thousands of American soldiers dead and how many Afghan civilians dead as a result of this war? This has been the most pointless wars in our history and all these people have been killed for nothing. Our job should have been to demolish Al-Qaeda there and get out instead of continuously fighting off the Taliban. Time to get out!

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  • ManfromNebraska
    03/15/2018
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    We failed to finish the job. While we had the 100,000 there they should have left them to finish the job. Part of the problem is some countries around that region give safe harbor to the terrorists. Which makes it hard to wipe them out. Be 100% in or 100% out. The Afghan army has had all these years of training so we should either get back into it wholly or get out.

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  • Ryan
    03/15/2018
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    Our military imperialism has killed 20 million civilians since world war 2, and is responsible for the creation of Al Qaeda in the first place when we taught Muslims in Afghanistan, including osama bin laden, to use Jihad as a means of expelling the Russians in the 80s. We need to engage with other nations with peace and humanitarian aid, not war.

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  • Poli.Sci
    03/15/2018
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    The idea of fighting in Afghanistan (which is not an official sanctioned and declared war by the rule of the Constitution) was to prevent an insurgent, terrorist organization from taking the lead in government. The Taliban is such a force and though it has moderated in recent years, there are still sects of its forces that carry out terrorist organizations and reside in territory of our allies (Pakistan). Those troops are not forced, conscripted troops and are volunteers of a professional army. They understood and understand their duty and if this is where the conflict zone is, that’s where they need to be. I have friends who have served there on multiple tours. This is another battle ground to fight terrorism and extremism, we need to finish this by any means available that does not break the international law on nuclear weapons.

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  • RadicalModerate
    03/15/2018
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    Case and point. We need to shut down the military industrial complex. Eisenhower warned us.

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  • Robert j.
    03/15/2018
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    Make Mattis Sec State.

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  • Tim
    03/15/2018
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    Get out

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  • Caroline
    03/15/2018
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    This is an unending war that we shouldn’t have ever started. There’s no good out. We’ve made more enemies in the “stans” and in many ways destabilized countries that work better under a blending of democratic and tribal laws, than a straight up democracy. What colonialism started by European countries can never be repaired, so they need to either redraw their own borders by tribes, or work it out, but we need to get out. We’ve murdered enough of the harmless citizens.

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  • Laura
    03/15/2018
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    Nothing has been accomplished. Just another Vietnam failure because politics has gotten involved.

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  • Kelley
    03/16/2018
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    It’s a waste to consider that our country can change the values of another. Their culture has operated under their own belief system for hundreds of years. If the people are not supportive of a democratic society, they should run their own government as they feel fit. It’s not up to the US to decide how every other country should live, vote or establish their laws. Move on.

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  • Steve
    03/15/2018
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    Have all of you forgotten 9-11? Maybe you need to watch the documentary as a refresher!! I was there moving bodies, limbs, etc.

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  • Lilthriller
    03/15/2018
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    Over the years we our finding out that more terrorist are home grown. We invade other country’s so we can say we are doing something about it. I’m a year younger than this war. The occupation needs to stop. I don’t think we need more troops. I think we need to watch what we say or do around others. If you bully someone without realizing it you can be apart of the problem. I’m a nice guy but come on. We need to teach the youth that it’s not violence all the time. It’s about the respect for fellow animal and fellow humans.

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  • Timnyc
    03/16/2018
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    Enough already bring our soldiers home. Another campaign promise broken by POTUS stupid wars he said? So let’s get moving on the enemies in front of us . RUSSIA..., they are here now. STOP them

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  • Adam
    03/15/2018
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    War IS politics by other means. Both have failed now what? The onaly reason we’re over there in the first place is failed foreign policy from at least 30 years back. It’s time to pack it up and admit you have no clue what you’re doing in that corner of the world. The only true failure is not learning from our mistakes. It’s time our policy makers look in the mirror and admit they know very little about to situation and how to get that out come they truly want. Greed and pride have a great cost. And the American tax payer is left with the bill and that’s the luxury we get for being on this side of the equation.

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  • Mcallister
    03/20/2018
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    Although I never deployed as a West Point graduate and now 100% service-connected disabled veteran, I remember distinctly the time during my Basic Officership Leadership Course in Nov 2012 whenever I heard the news that my squad leader during my initial New Cadet Basic Training at the academy was KIA in Afghanistan. I’ll be honest - I was never very fond of the guy and thought he was always sorta a snobby dick, but I never dreamed something like that would happen to him - or I suppose we’re supposed to be trained on how to handle something like that right? From my experience at least, death will haunt you so steadily in the military that a practically inevitable mental health condition - PTSD- eventually manifests from all the traumatic bullshit on top of insane amounts of sleep deprivation and the never-ending cycle of exhausting missions, trainings, preparations, rehearsals, etc. etc. Our military personnel - a tiny “voluntary” fraction of American society - have been fighting the war in Afghanistan for over 16 years. I’m disillusioned with this fight. Can we please find a better way to govern than with an iron fist of imperialist bullshit? It’s been this way for so long now - both major political parties barely even touching on these drawn-out wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now I’m supposed to sit here and not only listen to but somehow come to grips with the fact that a draft-dodging bone-spurred obese flannel-moth-caterpillar-haired tiny-handed little man with obvious daddy and behavioral health issues is running this country. The moron-in-chief is now in charge of an already 16 year conflict that has showed minimal progress by any measure. I think it’s about time we heeded the warning of President Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation about the unwarranted influence of the military industrial complex into nearly every fabric of our society. War should always be a last resort, and I’m tired of the “he tells it like it is” bullshit Trump supporters enjoying the violent and inflationary language coming from the White House now. We live in dangerous enough times as it is where conventional warfare may even become a thing again because Trump can’t keep aggressively tweeting at Kim Jong-Un! I mean if diplomatic negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government can be pulled off effectively - excellent. But I think we should also consider the fate of the decade-long Soviet-Afghan war as well. I guess - just like in Vegas - you’ll learn the hard way once you run out of money!

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  • Bruno
    03/16/2018
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    Follow the money and power.

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  • Terry
    03/15/2018
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    Since the beginning of time this country has had no stability. The USSR couldn’t bring it under control. The people don’t want anything but local tribal rule. The U.S. should keep a small force in country and pull out and drop our monetary support since it goes to fund corruption.

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  • John
    03/15/2018
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    Let’s pull out, catch our breath for a while, let things play out and see what/if we can do anything that improves the situation from a USA point of view. So far we’ve killed a lot of people and lost and injured our own troops. Guarding opium fields and honing our desert fighting tactics has come at a high human and financial cost.

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