On Thursday, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that several thousand more troops are needed to assist Afghan government forces in their fight against the Taliban.
The United Nations estimates that the Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan now than it has at any point since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Los Angeles Times reports. Afghan forces have suffered twice as many casualties in the last two years as U.S. forces did in 10 years, Nicholson said, adding, "Our Afghan partners have been sustaining very significant losses, and I'm not sure that's sustainable." He said the war against the Taliban is at a "stalemate," and more troops — either from the United States or other countries in an international coalition — are needed to help train both the military and police forces. In July, former President Barack Obama ordered the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan dropped from 9,800 to 8,400 by the end of the year.
Nicholson also said Russia is creating a "false narrative" that is "legitimizing" the Taliban, claiming that the militants are battling the Islamic State (both are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims), while Iran really is arming and funding Shiite Muslim fighters in the country: "When we look at Russian and Iranian actions in Afghanistan, I believe that... they're trying to undermine the United States and NATO and prevent this strong partnership that we have with the Afghans in the region."