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Afghan army could hold territory without support, but ‘difficult’

Afghan Security Force

(dpa) – Afghan security forces (ANDSF) would be capable of holding their current territory against possible Taliban offensives if international forces leave the country, but with difficulty, a senior Afghan official said in an interview with dpa on Sunday.

“Yes, but it would be very difficult,” said Daoud Naji, senior political adviser to the Afghan National Security Council, in response to a question if the army could hold its ground.

According to the official, the country’s armed forces have prepared to be more efficient and sustainable in preparation of a possible retreat of US and NATO forces by May 1.

US forces have already decreased their support and have not accompanied Afghan forces in offensives since Washington inked an agreement on the withdrawal of international forces with the Taliban in February last year.

According to Naji, in that past year the “Taliban had intensified their attacks to expand their territories but failed.” The ANDSF proved that they are capable to continue fighting without foreign forces, he said.

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He added that in the past six months the Afghan forces have changed fighting methods by repositioning ground forces, shortening the chain of command, increasing coordination and appointing highly motivated and skilled army leaders.

However, a US watchdog found that the Afghan security forces, despite having made progress, still face “long-term capability and sustainability challenges” that would require various forms of continued US military support.

“Persistent [ANDSF] weaknesses in mission-critical areas continue to hinder the force’s effectiveness, readiness, and sustainability,” according to a report by the US special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

“These include among others nascent personnel accountability and payroll capabilities, logistics challenges, and heavy reliance on U.S.-funded contractors for maintenance of U.S.-provided vehicles and aircraft,” the report found.

The new US administration under President Joe Biden is currently reviewing the deal with the Taliban, signed by former president Donald Trump.