September 18, 2012

Analysis: The Taliban's 'Momentum' Has Not Been Broken

"We've broken the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and begun the transition to an Afghan lead," President Obama said during his weekly address on Sept. 1. "Next month," the president continued, "the last of the troops I ordered as part of the surge against the Taliban will come home, and by 2014, the transition to Afghan lead will be complete."

This is not the first time the president has talked about Afghanistan in this manner. And Obama administration officials have repeatedly made the same argument: the Taliban's "momentum" was broken by a surge of forces into Afghanistan beginning in 2010. Consequently, the president and his advisers contend, it is safe to bring American forces home in large numbers.

It is undeniable that the Afghan surge made significant progress in the southern part of the country. Prior to the surge, the Taliban and its allies made startling gains, showing an ability to control territory in Helmand and Kandahar that they had previously lost. The surge reversed those gains. But the insurgency is not confined to those southern provinces. The insurgency operates throughout the country, and is especially strong in the east. While one can reasonably argue that the surge was successful in the south, a similar counterinsurgency plan was not carried out in full elsewhere.

As a result, the Taliban's "momentum" has not been truly broken.

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