“The clock on Afghanistan has had quite a bit more time added to it, and that provides a lot more pressure on the Taliban psychologically and it will physically,” says Lt. Gen. David Barno (ret.), former commander of US forces in Afghanistan and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“The Taliban believe that they’re winning on the scoreboard and it’s the fourth quarter of the football game and that they’re going to be the last man standing when the clock runs out and that’s going to be in July of next year. All of the sudden now there’s a new quarter added onto the football game and that’s going to have a very significant impact.”
Still, for the Taliban, who have said they are making gains against foreign forces, they are unlikely to show any public dismay over the news. In Kandahar, the focus of the troop surge, Taliban officials say that they were initially affected by the increased military presence, but they adapted by hiding during major clearing operations and stationing troops in their hometowns so they wouldn’t the increased number of check points wouldn’t be a problem.
“The increase in operations by the foreigners can’t have any effect on us, because if they kill one of our big commanders, we are like the hard stones and each Taliban is harder than the next. If they kill one, we will get another who is even stronger than the other ones,” says Ihsan, who commands about 15 Taliban fighters in Kandahar.
He adds that he has mixed feelings about the departure of foreign forces. “If the foreign forces decide to leave Afghanistan, at least it will help the foreign forces to take their soldiers out without losing any more lives, but I will be disgraced by this decision because I won’t have the chance to get martyrdom in the fight against the foreigners.”