A bitter civil war threatens to revive itself in Afghanistan as Taliban forces position themselves to capture key cities following the formal withdrawal of United States troops from the country. The Taliban offensive has already captured swathes of the country, though the government has managed to hold the major cities. The war might escalate drastically should the fighting move into the population centers which the government knows it must control.
War in Afghanistan revived
The speed of the Taliban advance will certainly be worth noting in any future evaluations of the success of the long American occupation of Afghanistan.
In two full decades of war American and Afghan forces were unable to maintain control over the rugged and mountainous regions where the Taliban bided its time.
Even as NATO forces complete their withdrawal the insurgents are moving to seize the provincial capitals which have become vulnerable.
While Afghanistan is a notoriously difficult nation to control and even with the support of the United States the Kabul government was never able to bring the entire country under its authority.
Now the government of Afghanistan faces the first major Taliban offensive since the full withdrawal began and the success of the years of American training will be tested.
Iraqi forces in a similar situation collapsed against an ISIS offensive several years ago, though the Baghdad government held on to the capital.
Taliban advances to take key cities
The Kabul government may not be so fortunate as the war escalates. Taliban forces throughout the country have gained more ground than they have ever held since the 2001 invasion.
If they are able to capture cities and acquire more resources the fighting could become even more intense and the situation even more dire for the central government.
Taliban forces were evidently well prepared and well motivated for the current offensive and they are determined to take and hold ground throughout Afghanistan.
American airstrikes have supported Afghan forces to an extent as the withdrawal approaches its conclusion. The war will ultimately be decided, however, by the readiness of the Kabul government.
Even if this offensive is repelled the central government will still face the threat of a powerful Taliban presence in the rural areas of the country which will be almost impossible to wipe out.
The ultimate test of the usefulness of the American occupation will be seen as the Afghan forces rally to defend the major cities from the rapid Taliban advance.