WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 – While Afghanistan remains a dangerous place with many challenges ahead, it’s unlikely the Taliban have the ability to best Afghan forces on the battlefield or topple the government, the top U.S. general in the country said today.
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, said in prepared remarks to the House Armed Services Committee that while the Taliban has shifted tactics to high-profile attacks against soft targets, it is not capable of overthrowing the Afghan government in Kabul.
While they will continue to test Afghan security forces, “it’s unlikely that the Taliban will be able to overmatch the Afghan national defense and security forces on the battlefield in 2015,” Campbell said.
He predicted that indirect fire, insider attacks and other Taliban offensives will increase during the upcoming fighting season, but “these are not the tactics of an insurgent movement capable of overthrowing the Afghan government.”
Afghans Control Key Territory
With 350,000 Afghan security forces now in charge of the country’s security, Campbell said, the Afghan government has been able to maintain control over all key territory and populated areas including the country’s 34 provincial capitals and its major cities.
Casualties among Afghan security forces were higher last year than in 2013, he said, primarily because of the stepped-up role Afghan forces have taken in security operations at a time when coalition forces were drawing down.
Though U.S. and coalition casualties were lower, “Afghanistan remains a dangerous place,” Campbell said. In the coming months, he added, “we can anticipate we will be targeted and we will suffer casualties.”
Some 10,600 U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan - out of a total coalition force of 13,000 - continuing with a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.
“Our primary focus continues to be on preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven again for al-Qaida and other international extremist groups,” Campbell said, including the Haqqani network. That network, he said, could pose a formidable challenge to the Afghan government and coalition forces.
There is evidence of recruiting efforts in Afghanistan by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists and that some Taliban members have rebranded themselves as ISIL, Campbell said. These are developments, he said, that bear watching.