“Over the last few years there has been tremendous progress in the Afghan National Security Forces,” he says. “But when it comes to logistics (supplies and support for Afghan troops), intelligence gathering and decision-making, they still need help.”
Even so, the help will be diminishing at a critical moment in the counterinsurgency strategy as the coalition moves to dislodge Taliban strongholds in eastern Afghanistan. A withdrawal of 30,000 troops ordered by President Obama will be complete in October, reducing troop strength from a peak of nearly 103,000 last year to 68,000.
The military challenge presents just one of many problems in a country plagued by corruption and with a long history of frustrating foreign forces. Indeed, some experts suggest the job — winning, however defined — cannot be completed given the myriad hurdles and other issues, such as neighboring Pakistan’s support for the insurgency.