At the beginning of May, NATO announced plans to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2016. On Monday, General John Campbell, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said it was probably that troops would remain for years to come.
“There is overwhelming support to do something,” Campbell said of NATO’s sentiment on the war, and while no one seems able to define what “something” is going to be, it seems a sure bet it’s going to take years.
Gen. Campbell cited Afghan military struggles in his comments, saying there were “capacity gaps” that NATO and the U.S. would be filling for a long time to come.
Those comments ring of similar issues currently facing the Iraqi army in their struggle with ISIS. Lack of training and weapons, combined with little willpower to actually fight enemies have seen the army overwhelmed in recent weeks by superior ISIS forces.
Afghanistan, like the middle east, has a large number of armed clans who could easily join forces, just like ISIS, and quickly overthrow the government. Or they could fight each other, tearing the country apart like they did in the 90s. Either case produces well armed, well financed (thanks to Opium exports) military forces.
The longer the U.S. stays, the less likely either scenario becomes.
The occupation of Afghanistan has always technically been open-ended, but it seems to be getting even moreso in recent weeks. That means efforts to kick-start peace talks with the Taliban will be put on hold, given the Taliban have made any talks conditional on the withdrawal of international forces. Absent that, the war will continue indefinitely.