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US Pres­ident Donald Trump has said that he wants to find out why his country has been stuck in Afghanistan for the last 17 years. Trump, who is scheduled to chair a meeting of his security advisers later this week to review Washington’s Afghan policy, also said the administration was working on various ideas to formulate a new strategy.  Trump has authorized his Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to determine the nature and size of US military presence in Afgha­nistan.

Mattis is expected to ask for nearly 4,000 additional troops and more powers to engage the militants. The secretary has pledged to deliver a strategy to Congress this month. In a separate report on the situation in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the US air war in Afghanistan has returned to a level of intensity not seen since 2012.

Read more: Trump’s Afghanistan strategy is simply old wine in a new bottle

The current state of affairs in Afghanistan

Since 2001, the United States and its international partners have expended substantial resources to secure, stabilize, and rebuild Afghanistan. Recent developments, however, indicate that progress toward these strategic goals is slipping.

A significant worsening of the political and security situations in Afghanistan over the next twelve to eighteen months is therefore plausible. More specifically, there is a growing risk that the current National Unity Government in Kabul could collapse because of a defection by Abdullah, a severe economic crisis, the establishment of a parallel government, or a coup d’état.

The Taliban has seized swaths of rural Afghanistan in such provinces as Helmand, Uruzgan, Nangarhar, and Kunduz. Over the past few years, Taliban forces have also conducted several offensives against the districts and provincial capitals. In September 2015, for example, the northern city of Kunduz temporarily fell to the Taliban before being retaken by government forces. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of the National Unity Government continues to be undermined by poor governance and internal friction between President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah, and their supporters.

Read more: The US “Mini-surge” in  Afghanistan: Tough times ahead for Pakistan?

A significant worsening of the political and security situations in Afghanistan over the next twelve to eighteen months is therefore plausible. More specifically, there is a growing risk that the current National Unity Government in Kabul could collapse because of a defection by Abdullah, a severe economic crisis, the establishment of a parallel government, or a coup d’état.

There is also a growing possibility that the Taliban could gain substantial territory in one or more cities. These contingencies would amount to a strategic reversal for the United States since Washington was instrumental in helping create the National Unity Government in 2014. These developments would also likely increase the presence of Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaeda, and intensify security competition between such regional powers as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

Read more: The key to peace in Afghanistan: Bringing all the regional players…

Will the US troop increase help stabilize Afghanistan?

The US troops surge in Afghanistan during President Obama’s government only exacerbated the violence in Afghanistan. Many observers in the USA are of the view that deployment of a small number of additional troops by President Trump will not alter the balance of power on the Afghan battlefield.

The Taliban insurgency has never been more ferocious. The insurgent group has become bold and innovative. The attacks inside Kabul and Afghan military bases are indicative of the extent to which Taliban have penetrated the ANA and intelligence apparatus. 

The performance of Afghan National Army, trained and armed by the US and its allies, has failed to impress anyone. The rising casualties and desertions in ANA have weakened it considerably. Extra troops being deployed to Afghanistan are supposed to provide guidance and backup to the beleaguered Afghan forces. However, it will not be enough to turn the tide of war in favor of the Afghan government.

Read more: Afghanistan: From Soviet occupation to American ‘Liberation’

No end in sight

The Taliban insurgency has never been more ferocious. The insurgent group has become bold and innovative. The attacks inside Kabul and Afghan military bases are indicative of the extent to which Taliban have penetrated the ANA and intelligence apparatus.

Read more: The power struggle in Afghanistan: Who will emerge victorious?

The rise of other extremist groups such as Daesh has increased pressure on the Afghan government.For Trump, who pledged as a presidential candidate to extricate America from its foreign entanglements, an extended commitment could also become a political liability. He must find ways to minimize American involvement in the Afghan war and negotiate with Taliban to end this bloody conflict which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and large scale destruction.

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