The Afghan Taliban has published an open letter to the American people urging them to pressure their government to end the occupation of Afghanistan, now in its 17th year, and engage in peace talks.
Tellingly, President Donald Trump last month ruled out any talks with the Taliban.
The letter, published on the Taliban website, denounces the Bush administration's justification for launching the invasion, as well as the Trump administration, which "again ordered the perpetuation of the same illegitimate occupation and war against the Afghan people."
"No matter what title or justification is presented by your undiscerning authorities for the war in Afghanistan, the reality is that tens of thousands of helpless Afghans including women and children were martyred by your forces, hundreds of thousands were injured and thousands more were incarcerated in Guantanamo, Bagram, and various other secret jails and treated in such a humiliating way that has not only brought shame upon humanity but is also a violation of all claims of American culture and civilization," the letter states.
Ongoing failure for U.S. troops is ensured, the group argues. "If the policy of using force is exercised for a hundred more years and a hundred new strategies are adopted, the outcome of all of these will be the same as you have observed over the last six months following the initiation of Trump's new strategy."
The letter comes a day after U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that the "overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) performance, and chronic financial shortfalls."
Afghan government writ
In Afghanistan, the writ of Ashraf Ghani's government is apparently limited to big cities only while the rural areas are mostly controlled by the Taliban. But now it appears that even cities such as Jalalabad and Kabul are at the mercy of militants, who can target hotels, hospitals, schools, universities, or military bases at will. So the urban centers are gradually slipping out of the government's control just as the terrorists started their spring offensive -- in winter.
The Taliban are openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan's districts, fully controlling 4 percent of the country and demonstrating an open physical presence in another 66 percent, according to a BBC study published on January 30.
The BBC estimate, which it said was based on conversations with more than 1,200
individual local sources in all districts of Afghanistan, was significantly
higher than the most recent assessment by the NATO-led coalition of the
However, the coalition said on January 30 that the Taliban contested or controlled only 44 percent of Afghan districts as of October 2017.
NBC: The Taliban is gaining strength and territory
According to NBC more than 16 years after the U.S. helped overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, the metrics kept by U.S. and Afghan officials and security experts show the Taliban is gaining territory and strength.
As Kabul reels from a deadly wave of terror attacks, the numbers tell the tale. The percentage of the Afghan population under the control of the central government has slipped, the land mass under the control of coalition forces is shrinking, and the number of Taliban fighters may have doubled in the past four years.
In 2014, U.S. officials told NBC News that the number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan was about 20,000. Four years later, one U.S. defense official said the current Taliban strength is at least 60,000.
According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR), Resolute Support asked SIGAR not to make public the U.S. military's most recent internal estimates of Taliban control.
The appendix to SIGAR's January 2018 quarterly report, released Tuesday, says that Resolute Support asked SIGAR not to release either its estimate of Taliban territorial control or its estimate of the percentage of the Afghanistan population under Taliban control. The appendix quoted Resolute Support as saying the figures are "not releasable to the public." Both metrics are unclassified.