NATO, US Troops Continue Fighting Taliban in Afghanistan

There are roughly 100,000 American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan.

NATO has been operating in Afghanistan since 2003. The alliance has more than 60,000 troops as part of a United Nations mandated contingent known as the "International Security Assistance Force" - or ISAF.

Analysts say NATO has three objectives in Afghanistan. The first is to assist the Afghan government in its efforts to rebuild and stabilize the country. The second is to train the Afghan army and police. And the third is to hunt down and eliminate insurgents in southern Afghanistan - home of the Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.

The United States is the largest contributor to ISAF with approximately 30,000 troops. An additional 32,000 soldiers and Marines are part of the U.S.-led "Operation Enduring Freedom."

Tomas Valasek is a NATO and Afghan expert with the London-based Center for European Reform.

"The missions of '[Operation] Enduring Freedom' and forces under NATO's operation are really converging, gradually, over time. But the basic division is - if one can be drawn - is that '[Operation] Enduring Freedom' focuses on chasing down Osama bin Laden and the most active leaders of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, whereas the NATO forces are peacekeepers whose job is to help establish control by the Afghan national government," he said.  "Of course the tasks have converged simply because the peacekeeping job the NATO forces are doing in Afghanistan has turned out to be a little bit more difficult than initially thought. And peacekeepers have really turned into combat troops," Valasek added.

This past July was the deadliest month ever for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan - 76 coalition troops were killed, 45 of them American.

Analysts say in the run-up to the August 20 presidential elections, the Taliban has stepped up its attacks. They say the main fighting is still centered in the south, but the Taliban has expanded its range of action to the east and to the relatively peaceful north.

Sean Kay, with Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, says over the past few years, the Taliban has changed some of its methods.

"The Taliban have adopted tactics that came out of Iraq - the suicide bombings that used to never happen in Afghanistan have been happening much more regularly, the improvised explosive devices on the ground - a very serious threat to our men and women taking risks for the country on the ground," he said.

Michael Williams with the University of London, says the Taliban is using classic hit and run maneuvers.

"The Taliban certainly feel that they have the advantage at the moment - it's dubious to say whether they do or not. They don't really control a lot of territory. What they do is they harass and harry.  And so the NATO forces have to actually take, clear out territory and hold that territory," said Williams.  "The Taliban just has to go in and out and punch holes and create chaos, which makes it an incredibly more easy task for them and makes it more difficult for the alliance," he said.

In addition, says Charles Kupchan with the Council on Foreign Relations (in Washington), counter-insurgency warfare has always been difficult, because insurgents often run away from the forces that are coming after them.

"In the case of Afghanistan, they can disappear across the border into Pakistan. And even though the United States is conducting attacks on Pakistan territory through drones [a pilotless aircraft operated by remote control], the United States does not have permission, if you will, to send its own forces into Pakistan territory," said Kupchan.  "And so in that sense, the Taliban, to some extent, has safe harbor, can come across the border into Afghanistan, do damage and then sneak back into Pakistan," he said.

Many experts say NATO's credibility is at stake if it does not defeat the Taliban and help bring stability to the country.

Michael Williams of the University of London, describes what a successful Afghanistan might look like.

"Success in Afghanistan for the United States and its allies is a country that is broadly stable, with a centralized government that has the loyalty of regional factions of the country that are highly autonomous, that are providing generally for their own security and ensuring that no terrorist organization can find a safe haven in the country," said Williams.

Williams and others say such an Afghanistan can only come about if the international community provides the necessary economic, financial and reconstruction aid to help the Afghan government. They say NATO alone cannot stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs