Afghanistan's Downward Spiral Since 2011
In January 2015, I wrote the cover story for The Diplomat Magazine on the road ahead for Afghanistan after the end of Operation Enduring Freedom and the launch of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. The change formalized the end of combat operations--narrowly defined--and the launch of the dual mission of counterterrorism operations and the training, advising, and assisting of Afghan forces.
In reality, the transition had been taking place for some time as U.S. and coalition forces began dialing back from combat in 2012 in hopes that the Afghans would gradually take the lead and secure the country on their own. Starting in January 2015, U.S. and coalition forces were supposed to refrain from any combat against the Taliban except for in extremis cases of self defense.
At the time I wrote the piece, civilian and military officials were putting a positive spin on the capabilities of the Afghan forces and the country as a whole. If you asked anyone who covered Afghanistan at that time, however, you'd hear at best a neutral response, but more likely a pessimistic one.
It was clear then that the Afghan security forces were far from ready to secure the country from a resilient Taliban. In addition, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the country by the international community, Afghanistan still had a fragile government, economy, civil society, and everything else needed for a stable, self-governing nation.