General sees 'stalemate' in Afghanistan amid Russian involvement

By Tony Bertuca / February 9, 2017 at 12:20 PM

The commander of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan told Senators today that coalition forces are in a "stalemate" with the Taliban, citing a shortage of troops and the Russian government's efforts to undermine U.S. operations.

"The Russian involvement, this year, has become more difficult," Army Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban," he continued. "This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that therefore there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative."

Nicholson said the Afghan government, along with U.S. counterterrorism forces, are successfully fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reducing their territory in Afghanistan by two-thirds this year and killing their top 12 leaders.

The Taliban, however, controls 15 percent more territory than they did in 2015, Nicholson said.

Meanwhile, Nicholson said he had an adequate number of troops to execute the U.S. counterterrorism mission, but had a shortfall of "a few thousand" to train and assist the Afghan military. Additional troops could come from either U.S. forces or NATO allies, he said.

The United States had 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, along with 5,000 coalition troops from U.S. allies.

"Additional forces would enable us to thicken our advisory effort across the Afghan ministries and do more advising below the core level," Nicholson said. "I am currently in discussion with my chain of command."