30 November 2018

Analysis: U.S. Military Grossly Underestimates Taliban, al Qaeda Force Levels in Afghanistan

by Bill Roggio –Long War Journal

Once again, the US military has grossly underestimated the size and scope of the Taliban, despite battling the group head-on for the last 17 years. In its latest quarterly report, US Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) approximated the Taliban’s strength as between 28,000 and 40,000 fighters.

That number should be doubled, at the minimum, because the USFOR-A estimate is wildly unrealistic given the level and intensity of fighting in Afghanistan, as well as the number of Taliban casualties claimed by Afghan security forces.

This latest estimate of the Taliban’s strength was disclosed in the Department of Defense Inspector General’s quarterly report on Afghanistan, which covered July through September, 2018. USFOR-A estimated the Taliban to have 30,000 to 35,000 fighters, and the “Taliban Haqqani Network” another 3,000 to 5,000 [see chart above, reproduced from the inspector general’s report].

As FDD’s Long War Journal has noted for more than a decade, the distinction between the Taliban and the Haqqani Network is one without difference; Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, has been the deputy to Taliban emir Mullah Habiatullah and military commander of the group since 2015. The two groups stopped denying that they are separate entities in 2008…

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