Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

AAN in the Media

Fresh Taliban assaults test boundaries of US ‘noncombat’ mission

< 1 min

Stars and Stripes, 15 December 2015

This article by Heath Druzin looking at the situation that “U.S. troops are increasingly being pulled back into battle to aid overstretched Afghan forces” , has longer quotes from AAN’s Thomas Ruttig:

That lack of resources has been compounded by the phenomenon of ghost troops — fictitious soldiers and police created by Afghan officers as a way to skim their salaries. That means the actual size of the Afghan National Security Forces may be much smaller than the 350,000 number often cited, said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghan[istan] Analysts Network.

“When commanders take money for fighters who don’t exist, it’s hard for them to ask for more soldiers,” he said.


The distinction between “assistance” [the NATO-led Resolute Support “train, advise and assist” mission] and combat has always been tricky. The declaration of the end of combat for foreign troops last year was always more semantics than reality, Ruttig said.

“I think they have never really stayed out of the fight,” he said. “Reality is coming back — withdrawal (of international forces) has been decided regardless of what the situation on the ground was, and now the situation on the ground demands more support.”



Ruttig said Afghan troops would continue to need U.S. assistance, but he cautioned that any fighting right now was little more than a way to uphold the bloody status quo until the Afghan government and Taliban figure out a long-sought peace deal.

“Even with 140,000 troops, the West was not able to defeat the Taliban, so the solution is not on the military side.”