An American servicemember was killed and another wounded in eastern Afghanistan earlier this week in an insider attack. Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Bolyard, the top enlisted soldier in the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), was killed in the incident, which is now under investigation.
Another U.S. casualty, suffered in a non-combat incident, was also reported the following day. Staff Sgt. Diobanjo Sanagustin, 32, an infantryman with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, died Tuesday, the Pentagon and Army announced on Wednesday.
September is now the fourth month in a row in which a U.S. servicemember has been killed in Afghanistan.
Less than a month ago, Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Transfiguracion, a Special Forces soldier with 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, died from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device attack in Helmand province.
Members of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan have also recently suffered combat fatalities. Three members of the Czech Army were killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in early August in Afghanistan. The IED attack also wounded one American while the joint patrol moved on foot in Parwan province. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
We’re facing a stalemate with the resurgent Taliban, who continue to punish Afghan security forces with unrelenting attacks while they also take over cities with complex assaults.
Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan and there appears to be no end in sight. After an “end” to combat operations in 2014 and a reduction of U.S. troop levels to 9,000 under President Barack Obama, the trend is again shifting to a renewed U.S. combat role and additional troops on the ground.
August saw some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan this year, with Taliban forces launching a major assault on the town of Ghazni, 100 miles south of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul. To stop the enemy advance, Afghan government troops had to call in elements of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. Air Force for air support.
The scale and complexity of the assault on Ghazni reflects the fragility of the Afghan government’s control of the security situation and highlights the Taliban’s continued capability to mount large-scale attacks.
According to The Long War Journal, the Taliban currently control 49 districts in Afghanistan, with another 200 contested. The government of Afghanistan controls 147 districts.
President Donald Trump has voiced his frustration with the conduct of the war in Afghanistan and is reportedly considering a proposal to privatize the U.S. role in the conflict.
Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, reportedly presented the idea last year during the Afghanistan strategy review held by the President and his National Security team. The plan would see the replacement of U.S. troops in Afghanistan with private military contractors who would work for a U.S. envoy that would oversee the war and report directly to the President.
Contractors would stay in Afghanistan for the long term. Whereas U.S. troops continually rotate into and out of the country, private security contractors under Prince’s plan would remain in Afghanistan for years, allowing them to develop meaningful relationships with the locals and a far better understanding of the situation on the ground.
The idea of privatizing the war in Afghanistan has raised serious ethical concerns and President Trump’s advisers are reportedly concerned that the President is seriously considering Prince’s idea.
It remains unlikely, however, that Prince’s plan would be adopted by the White House and the Pentagon. Still, contractors continue to play an important role in Afghanistan as they did in Iraq. They outnumber U.S. troops and it is entirely possible that they will play a greater role in future operations.