- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thousands of Afghan soldiers, civilians and Taliban fighters have been killed in one of the bloodiest fighting seasons of the 15-year U.S. campaign in the country, a sobering harbinger of what may come in the longest war in American history.

More than 60,000 Afghans have been injured or killed in 2016 in the face of a resurgent Taliban, who now hold sway over two-thirds of the country — the most territory held by the insurgent group since the beginning of the war, according to Kabul.

Afghan officials declined to provide specific casualty figures for the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF), which are comprised of the country’s Army, national and local police forces, Voice of America reported Sunday.

Mohammad Radmanesh, the deputy defense ministry spokesman, did acknowledge the casualties suffered by ANDSF did increase by 10 percent over last year’s figures.

Anti-Taliban operations led by Afghan forces did result in over 18,000 killed and 12,000 wounded Mr. Radmanesh said, adding that thousands of Taliban fighters and commanders have also been taken into custody.

Over 3,000 civilians have been killed this year during anti-Taliban operations, according to figures provided by the the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, VOA reported.

A rash of attacks against American, Afghan and coalition forces by insurgents and a growing number of Islamic State fighters this winter have left 25 U.S. and European soldiers and civilians killed or wounded across the country

The attacks prompted Afghan commanders and their U.S. counterparts to launch combat operations for the first time against the Taliban and the Islamic State during the traditional winter lull in fighting.

But the move could have little effect on stemming the violence without more U.S. troops, say analysts at the nonprofit Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

Afghan forces remain “highly dependent on current levels of U.S. support to regenerate units and secure government-controlled territory,” the institute said in a November threat assessment.

“The ANDSF are incapable of recapturing significant swaths of Taliban-controlled territory at current levels of U.S. support,” the assessment said.

“Militant offensives [have] subverted the [country’s] ability to seize territory from militants, allowing militants to expand their territorial control” in all quadrants of the country, it added at the time.

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