Are We Backsliding in Kandahar?

Slow progress in a key Afghan province

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Things might not be going so well in Kandahar, a strategically essential city located in the province of the same name in the southeast of Afghanistan. The Taliban first formed in Kandahar, expanding from there in the early 1990s to eventually win the whole of Afghanistan. The city has been racked with violence as U.S.-led international forces have tried to force the Taliban out. Here's how it's going and what it means.

  • Taliban Still Strong, Local Afghans Skeptical  The A.P.'s Anne Gearan writes, "Afghans have not yet rallied behind a U.S. military-led effort to push the Taliban out of the city where the insurgency began, and the top commander conceded Thursday that he needs more time to win them over. ... U.S.-led NATO forces can't defeat the Taliban while Kandahar remains an insurgent bastion, and time is short. Obama plans to begin withdrawing U.S. forces just over a year from now. The Kandahar operation will unfold more slowly and last longer than the military had planned, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters at a NATO meeting here."
  • Taliban Erode Gov't, Sow Fear  The New York Times' Rod Nordland writes, "The Taliban have been stepping up a campaign of assassinations in recent months against officials and anyone else associated with local government in an attempt to undermine counterinsurgency operations in the south. ... As the coalition concentrates on trying to build up the Afghan government in the southern province of Kandahar, a big part of that strategy depends on recruiting capable Afghan government officials who can speed delivery of aid and services to undercut support for the Taliban. The insurgents have just as busily been trying to undermine that approach, by killing local officials and intimidating others into leaving their posts."
  • U.K. Holds Back Troops From Assault  The Guardian's Richard Norton-Taylor reports that U.K. Defense Secretary Liam "Fox virtually ruled out the prospect of UK forces moving out of the province and into neighbouring Kandahar when Canada withdraws its troops from there next year. The idea has been canvassed by some senior British, US and Nato commanders."
  • Struggle in Marja Bodes Poorly for Kandahar  The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran surveys the big military push in Marja that began in February. "The insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines," and this could indicate trouble for the similar mission in Kandahar. "The challenge of stabilizing Marja also has prompted concern among commanders planning a large upcoming operation to combat the Taliban in and around the city of Kandahar. They are seeking to draw lessons from key problems encountered here and develop new approaches, particularly in increasing the presence of Afghan civil servants."
  • Obama Will Face Difficult Decision  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains, "Virtually every article I have read about the war features quotations from squadron colonels who say something to the effect of, well, we're making progress, but we need more time and more resources. In December, Obama is expected to review the Afghan surge, and it ought to surprise no one that most people in the military and the Pentagon policy team, led by Undersecretary of Defense Michelle Flournoy, are likely to urge him to stay at it -- to slow down any draw down of U.S. troops (and maybe, maybe, even add some troops) ... and certainly not to decide that rapidly withdrawing combat brigades is the right course of action. President Obama will resist."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.