Militant attacks on U.S. military, Afghan security forces, and Afghan targets have surged in recent weeks as U.S. and foreign forces withdraw in advance of the larger drawdown next year.
Officials say militants set off bombs, burned vehicles, and disabled a road used by NATO near a U.S. military base Monday, the Associated Press reports.
That attack followed the violent ambush of an Afghan police convoy last week, which required international air support to diffuse, the New York Times reported. The attack is seen as part of a larger effort by Taliban in the region to exert control, according to the Times:
The battle was the latest in a string of violent episodes in recent weeks on the country’s western edge, suggesting a serious effort by the Taliban to control crucial areas of Farah Province, where the attack occurred. Neighboring Herat Province, long viewed as one of the most stable, has also seen an upswing in Taliban violence. [...]
Residents of Farah say safety in the area, and particularly along the main Herat-Kandahar highway, has deteriorated over the past year. “The Taliban regularly attack police convoys, and the road is sometimes blocked for hours because of the heavy fighting,” said Muhammadullah, a taxi driver.
As U.S. forces withdraw from the country, the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police are expected to take control of the country’s security. But those forces face continued problems.
ANA forces currently face dwindling ranks; a U.S. report earlier this year found the ANA lost men at a rate of 3 percent per month—and more than a third of the ANA’s total force per year. The police force has also struggled with delinquency at around 15 percent per year, the Guardian reports.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the second in command for the NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, said Monday that there are no plans for a complete drawdown of U.S. forces.
“We have no indication whatsoever of a withdrawal completely from Afghanistan,” Milley said. “We are going to change our mission, and we are going to reduce in size and scope.”
According to plans outlined by President Obama, U.S. troops will be reduced to 34,000 by February 2014 from nearly 70,000 earlier this year.
“The current NATO mandate ends on 31 December 2014, but there’s another mission that follows that called Resolute Support which is currently in planning,” Milley said Monday.
As of this week, at least 2,133 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan since invasion was launched in 2001.