US Troops Begin Pulling out of Taliban-Controlled Areas

Whereas Friday, Oct. 30, President Barack Obama goes into his seventh round of deliberations on Afghanistan – still undecided where to go, the US military has begun marching backward, in retreat from areas partially controlled by the Taliban.

US Headquarters in Kabul announced that Gen. Stanley McChrystal had shut down half a dozen military outposts, freeing nearly 1,000 troops for other missions. Other US military sources explained that the pullbacks are necessary to adapt deployments to winter conditions. Most remote bases will be cut off by heavy snowfall and exposed to Taliban attacks.

But, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly military sources, Taliban forces moved in on these outposts this week. As a result, they enjoy greater freedom of movement in at least four districts neighboring Kabul from the north – Nuristan, Kunar, Kapisa and Raghlam – and access to areas closed to them before.

In Nuristan, for instance, Taliban is so sure of its authority that its local commanders are releasing fighting strength for South Waziristan to help fellow Taliban forces resist the Pakistani military assault in its second week. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters can also move freely from Jalalabad through Nuristan to reach the Wardak region southeast of Kabul.

Taliban chiefs and many Afghans have stopped waiting for a Washington decision, taking it for granted that future strategy will have to factor in the realization that the US is incapable of totally eradicating an indigenous insurgency. They expect future US efforts to focus on preventing al Qaeda rebuilding its power base in Afghanistan, while keeping Taliban at bay long enough for the formation of an effective Afghan security force capable of taking over from NATO and shouldering the campaign in its place.

As it becomes stronger, Taliban views any decision the White House may reach as a victory and a step bringing the US departure from Afghanistan closer. This perception is shared by many Afghans and circles in New Delhi and Southwest and Central Asia.

Our Afghan sources stress that the Afghan people are now waiting for America's program of economic development and reconstruction which they hope will lift the abysmal living conditions of the population at large and attract manpower to security forces that will take the place of foreign troops.

For this program to work, they say, central government in Kabul must inject economic aid into the local economies through the provincial governors.

The trouble today is that very few regions are under government economic oversight, whereas the Taliban holds sway either directly, through corrupt Afghan officials or sympathetic clan and tribal chiefs.

In these places and in the areas abandoned by US forces, it is impossible to embark on economic projects without co-opting the local Taliban or its agents.

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