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Lest we forget Afghanistan: We may have left but the war goes on

The Taliban’s unexpected capture of Kunduz on September 27 and its equally swift loss of the northern city a few days later briefly brought Afghanistan back to public attention.  After dominating the news for a decade, Afghanistan has been dropping from view at about the same pace as the decline in the number of NATO forces there. From a peak of 132,000 in 2011, they are now down to 13,000. Conventional wisdom to the contary, these are not just US forces which currently total 9,800. The balance come from 40 other countries, most of whose contingents are quite small. According to the latest tally, the largest are from Georgia (885), Germany (850), Romania (650), Turkey (503), Italy (500), the UK (470), and Australia (400). Their status is that of participants in NATO’s Resolute Support mission which replaced the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on January 1, 2015.

The Obama administration is currently struggling with a decision whether to further reduce US troops in Afghanistan. Obama had earlier pledged to withdraw all US troops by the end of his second term (15 months hence), but he is getting pushback from many quarters to leave more than just a security force to protect the US embassy in Kabul. It was Afghan forces which spearheaded the recapture of Kunduz, but they probably would not have succeeded without the support of US special forces and air power.