British Royal Marines have withdrawn all of their troops from a Taliban area of Afghanistan, according to the New York Times. Sangin District, in the hotly fought over Helmand Province, has been deadly for British troops, as over 100 British soldiers have lost their lives there since the war began in 2001, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. The handover to American forces was a routine battlefield rotation, according to commanders, but the Afghan Defense Minister says that the American troops were better able to handle Sangin than the British. Over a third of British casualties in Afghanistan occurred in Sangin.
Current State of Affairs
The war in Afghanistan has had several recent changes that pose a concern for troops in that country. Recent elections over the weekend in Afghanistan have shown a need for more security in the war-torn nation. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Taliban, warlords, and armed men influenced voter turnout and who people voted for in the parliamentary elections. Some observers noted that the elections were held anyway, despite threats of violence.
General David Petraeus is now the top United States commander in Afghanistan after taking over for General Stanley McChrystal, who resigned amidst pressure after making harsh statements about his Commander-in-Chief to Rolling Stone. Petraeus was one of the top generals in Iraq, and President Obama put him in charge of Afghanistan now that Iraq is much more stable.
The war in Afghanistan has lasted for nearly nine years. While the initial campaign to destroy the Taliban was quick and destructive, strongholds remained and the Taliban fighters eventually returned after some fled the country or went into hiding.
The key for the United States military is taking control of the southern province of Helmand, which includes Kandahar. Helmand borders Pakistan and is mountainous, a haven for warlords, and has seen the deadliest fighting in Afghanistan, according to the BBC. Helmand is the last major stronghold of the Taliban, and it is the military’s top priority to secure the entire province and keep the Taliban from returning.
There has been considerable debate about the Afghan government and its role in the war. In January of 2009, an assessment of corruption in Afghanistan was published and stated that as many as two-thirds of Afghan families paid bribes in 13 provinces of Afghanistan. USAID continues to say in its report that all levels of the Afghan government refuse to prosecute the corruption.
Military and civilian leaders have two things to solve in Afghanistan if the country is going to move forward to a working democracy. The Taliban and inherent corruption must be dealt with before a stable and trustworthy Afghanistan can exist. Troops will stay there until both of those objectives are achieved.
The New York Times, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, the BBC, and USAID all contributed information for this article.