Afghans can hold off Taliban assault in final US fighting season

With less than two months left in this fighting season, "We expect the enemies of the Afghan people to come out and try to achieve those objectives that they've not been able to achieve," Maj. Gen. James McConville, the top U.S. commander for Regional Command-East, said in August. 

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"We're expecting a spike in violence," McConville told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. 

But with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the lead for more than 90 percent of all combat missions in Afghanistan, local troops will be able to weather that Taliban onslaught, Milley told reporters at the Pentagon. 

The Taliban offensive, highlighted by spectacular, high-profile attacks in Kabul and elsewhere, have taken their toll on ANSF units across the country. 

Pakistani-based terror groups like the Haqqani Network and others are calling upon “every house, every family” to send fighters into Afghanistan, Afghan army commanders stationed at the American base in Paktia province told The Hill in July. 

“The madrassas are emptying" in Pakistan, added Lt. Col. David Hamann, who leads the American Security Force Assistance Advisory Team at Combat Outpost Matun Hill in Khost province. 

As a result, Afghan security forces are averaging between 50 to 100 soldiers killed per week during this fighting season, according to Milley. 

That casualty rate matches the average levels of U.S. forces killed during the bloodiest days of the Vietnam War, the three-star general pointed out. 

Most recently, Taliban fighters launched a large-scale suicide attack in an attempt to overrun Forward Operating Base Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan. 

Afghan and coalition forces held the base, but a number of ANSF and Polish troops were killed in the attempted strike. 

Despite that heavy toll suffered by Afghan units, Taliban fighters have not been able to break the ANSF or degrade the central government's control over the country. 

Afghan insurgents do not have "any type of viable capability" to make any real advanced to destabilize the Afghan government or its military forces, Milley said. 

"To date, they have not been successful," he added. 

To maintain that momentum, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are drafting plans to establish a postwar American force in country, after all, U.S. combat troops withdraw in 2014. 

The three-star general declined to comment on the specifics of the plan, saying it was "too early to tell" as to the specific troop numbers or missions that the proposed postwar force will perform. 

"We [still] have to get some more data," Milley said, which leaders at the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command are still gathering. 

That postwar force will be necessary, according to Milley, since the Taliban will not "fade away into dust" once America withdraws from Afghanistan. 

"This war is not over," he said, adding the fight against the Taliban will continue "for a long period of time."