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The increased use of A-29 light attack aircraft and MD-530 attack helicopters have enabled Afghan "ground force to become more agile and lethal,” according to a recent Pentagon report on stability in Afghanistan, released June 20, 2017.  Here, an Afghan Air Force A-29 sits on the flightline at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Staff photo by Brian Everstine.

—Brian Everstine

Afghan forces are at a “critical point” in their fight against insurgency, as Taliban gains in rural areas have prompted US officials to recently say the US, NATO, and Afghan forces are “losing” the war.

The Afghan government continues to “modify the force structure and develop into a more agile and lethal force,” according to the Pentagon’s latest congressionally mandated report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” released Tuesday. However, the report notes the significance of building “momentum” in 2017.

“The ANDSF [Afghan National Defense Security Force] must weather the storm from the insurgency and deny the Taliban strategic victories on the battlefield, fight ISIS-K, grow and train the [Afghan Security Force], conduct planning to realign forces within the [Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior], and posture itself to be a more offensive force in 2018,” states the report.

Afghan forces have had success in urban areas, with Afghan special forces being effective at leading offensive clearing operations, the report states. However, the Taliban has gained control of more rural areas “through exploiting opportunities to occupy cleared areas after the ANDSF failed to consolidate gains.”

The Afghan Air Force has become a bright spot in the country. After last year’s report outlined a manning shortfall in the AAF, the Afghan service “has become increasingly capable,” states the report. The AAF has had trouble recruiting individuals with efficient education and language capabilities, though retention is high. “Any shortfall in recruiting or a higher than anticipated attrition rate among trainees would cause a major effect on the AAF’s ability to operate and to maintain the force,” the report states.

The increased use of A-29 light attack aircraft and MD-530 attack helicopters have enabled “the ground force to become more agile and lethal.” This will be needed as the year’s fighting season, called Operation Khalid, ramps up, the report states.