Whack-a-Mole in Afghanistan

Seems like the U.S. isn’t the only one having a bit of difficulty with the “hold” component of “Clear, Hold and Build” in Afghanistan:

Taliban fighters are returning to an area in northernAfghanistan just days after being driven off in a combinedAfghan-German military operation. There’s growing concern that theTaliban — and al-Qaida fighters — are forming strongholds in what hadbeen the relatively peaceful north. . . .

The reports coming from the Kunduz area raise doubts about thesuccess of Operation Adler. The Afghan Army said it wouldn’t repeat themistake made in past offensives that troops were removed too quickly,enabling the enemy to quickly return to the area. But it appeared tohave done exactly that last week.

At the German base in Kunduz, sources even said that ANA GeneralMurad Ali Murad wanted to withdraw his troops completely at the startof the week.

Operation Adler is the offensive operation carried out by the Afghan army with heavy kinetic support from German troops that I flagged two weeks ago. According to the Der Spiegel article cited above, the Taliban elements that were driven out at the time have more or less filtered back in. This, by the way, is in the operational equivalent of “left field” where you’d expect to find the NATO troops with the most restrictive rules of engagement.

To be clear, I’m not minimizing the danger faced by the German forces there. The story just makes it clear that when it comes to the “oil stain” approach to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, there’s a whole lot more fabric than oil.

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