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Taliban ‘Tet Offensive’ in Kunduz Exposes Failure of US Afghan Strategy

The Taliban scored a political victory in overrunning Afghan government forces in Kunduz this week that evoked memories of a crucial battle in Vietnam during the 1960s that also elucidated a deeply-flawed US military strategy, experts told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON  (Sputnik), Michael Hughes — On Monday, Taliban militants recaptured their former stronghold of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. The following day US-backed Afghan government forces beat back the insurgents, according to the Afghan Defense Ministry.

"Kunduz strikes me as the Taliban's Tet Offensive [in Vietnam]," US Army War College Professor M. Chris Mason told Sputnik on Thursday. "While the Tet Offensive in 1968 was a disaster militarily for the Viet Cong, it came as a shock to the American people, who had been fed a steady diet of positive progress reports over the years by the Pentagon."

The battle of Kunduz erupted just as US military planners presented options to the White House to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2016 withdrawal deadline.

The Tet Offensive, Mason argued, illustrated to the world that the situation in Vietnam was not as rosy as US officials had led many to believe, similar to the Pentagon’s obfuscation of the ground truth in Afghanistan today.

"I think much the same is true, in a strategic sense, of the Battle of Kunduz," Mason asserted.

"For years American leaders have been assured by a succession of US commanders in Afghanistan that great progress is being made by the Afghan government security forces."

The fact that 500 Taliban guerillas drove 7,000 government defenders out of Kunduz in less than eight hours has had a "Tet-like effect inside Washington this week," Mason added.

"Clearly, without extensive US fire support and some boots on the ground to coordinate it, the Afghan security forces cannot hold."

Much more important than trainers at this point would be a squadron of A-10 Warthogs and several AC-130 gunships, because the jets in country now are not designed for the close air support mission, he added.

Former Marine Captain and State Department official Matthew Hoh told Sputnik that Kunduz is yet another example of the failure of the US and Afghan governments to deliver upon promises of "stability, security and an inclusive peace process."

The long-term damage, Hoh stated, has not been rendered on the military battlefield so much as it has within the political arena, just like it was in Vietnam.

"We’ve [the United States] aligned ourselves with corrupt warlords and drug lords, bolstered an illegitimate and thieving government, and have fostered and utilized a sectarian split in Afghanistan that has deepened a civil war."

Since the beginning of the Obama administration more than six years ago, Hoh observed, glowing statements citing progress in Afghanistan have emanated from the mouths of politicians in Washington and Kabul that contradict reality.

The United States committed itself to military victory in Afghanistan in 2009 to such a degree, Hoh claimed, that it makes it extremely difficult to portray the current situation as anything but defeat.

"It’s awfully hard to walk away without looking like you’ve lost if the enemy hasn’t just not surrendered, but is advancing and capturing large towns and cities."

Unfortunately, Hoh added, since there has been nothing but the assuredness of success and victory in Afghanistan from Obama, his civilian staff and his generals, the President will most likely be forced to keep troops in Afghanistan past 2016.

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