Afghanistan war: Can the US gains last?
Almost 11 years into the US-led war in Afghanistan, the situation still remains so tenuous in some parts of Afghanistan that locals worry about the safety of accepting aid from the West.
Qarah Bagh, Afghanistan
At a recent meeting of local government officials in east Afghanistan, a US Department of Agriculture representative lays out plans to build cold storage facilities for local farmers that would allow them to sell produce out of season at higher prices.Skip to next paragraph
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After listening quietly, Mohammad Hasan, a senior sub-governor asks a question that sparks nearly an hour of debate and ultimately questions whether the US mission here has worked at all.
“The Taliban threatens people not to accept development projects with American money,” he says. “How are we supposed to build these storage facilities? If we talk about them, the Taliban will kill us.”
Almost 11 years into the US-led war in Afghanistan and just weeks before the US military begins winding down its yearlong surge into Ghazni Province, the situation still remains so tenuous that locals worry about the safety of accepting development aid from the West.
For the past year, Ghazni has been home to one of the final major US military offensives in Afghanistan. Though the US military says it's made significant gains here, it remains unclear if these improvements can hold as the number of US troops drops.
The farming province became the focus of the US military because of the road that passes through it, linking Kabul and Kandahar, the nation’s two largest cities. Known as Highway 1, it connects Afghanistan to neighboring countries and is critical for trade.
With security established in Kabul and improving in Kandahar, US military planners wanted to eliminate the instability in the areas between them.
In Ghazni, the 1,000 Polish troops posted there reportedly lacked the resources to do much more than secure the area directly around the highway and did little to protect the outlying villages. As a result, the Taliban managed to gain a strong foothold in Ghazni.
Last summer, the US military took control of the province and increased the number of soldiers there to nearly 3,000.
“Overall the mission was to come in and produce a stronghold,” says US Army Lt. Matt Long, a platoon commander in Delta Company of the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment. “I think we’ve significantly affected the area in what [the Taliban] can and can’t do.”