21:10 GMT18 January 2021
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    The latest surge by the Taliban in capturing key areas of Helmand province in Afghanistan have exposed deep flaws in the NATO strategy of providing support - but not combat troops - for the Afghan army, based on hub-and-spoke operations in Kabul.

    Nearly 14 years after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was disbanded in December 2014 to be replaced by a follow-on NATO-led mission called Resolute Support, which was launched on January 1, 2015 to provide "further training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions," according to NATO.

    It's mission, it said in a statement, "would operate with one central hub (in Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes in Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Laghman". However, the hub-and-spoke operation omitted the key province of Helmand, which saw some of the bloodiest battles against the Taliban.

    In total, 13,195 personnel make up the Resolute Support Mission, drawing on the resources of 42 nations, led by US General John F. Campbell. It provides training, advice and assistance — as well as substantial funding — to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

    ​However, over the weekend of December 19/20 the Taliban made a significant surge into Helmand province — inexplicably omitted from the Resolute Support Mission. By Wednesday, the Taliban had captured all but two of its districts, forcing the US and the UK to send in extra forces to assist the Afghan army amid criticism of a lack of air support from NATO.

    Inadequate Supplies

    According to Reuters, acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai said fighting was going on in Sangin where government forces had been surrounded by insurgents who controlled most of the district including roads needed for reinforcements and supplies.

    "The military is in position and the operation is ongoing," Stanekzai told a news conference in Kabul, adding that reinforcements had arrived in the province to relieve troops in Sangin. Provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said the situation had improved since the beginning of the week but heavy fighting was continuing.

    ​Although much attention has been focused on Sangin, fierce fighting has been underway across much of Helmand, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban and a major center for opium that US and British troops fought for years to control.

    Government forces have complained bitterly about being left without adequate supplies and reinforcements as well as with none of the air power that backed up NATO forces when they fought in the region.

    ​Military advisers from Britain have joined other NATO advisers in Helmand to help Afghan forces who have struggled to contain the insurgency since foreign troops withdrew from combat operations last year.


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    NATO, NATO failure, military action, military operation, heavy fighting, conflict, war, troops, British Army, Taliban, US Army, Sangin, Helmand, Afghanistan
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