U.S., U.K. Hand Off Afghan Base, But Taliban Still A Threat

The U.S. and Britain gave control of a joint base to the Afghan military, but despite getting less attention than ISIS, the Taliban is still active.
Posted at 9:40 PM, Oct 26, 2014

On Sunday, the U.S. and British military coalition ended its formal mission in one of Afghanistan's most volatile regions, the Helmand province.

The moment was marked by a ceremonial handover of the joint base of Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion to the Afghan military.

This is the largest installation handed over to Afghan forces so far. The base stretches over 6,500 acres and reportedly once resembled a mini-city, though the population has dwindled as operations in the area wind down. 

The province has been hotly contested by Taliban fighters since 2001. Approximately 400 British troops and more than 350 U.S. troops have been killed in the region since the conflict began.

Regardless, many media outlets, such as The Guardian, are hailing the withdrawal as "bringing a key chapter in the 13-year Afghanistan campaign to an end."

But while the base handover marks the beginning of the end for the West's mission in Afghanistan, media attention shifted away from the country a long time ago.

That's partly because the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been the focus of the media's war on terror coverage. The speed at which the group seemingly came out of nowhere to conquer northern Iraq and parts of Syria made it seem like the most important threat. 

The high-profile executions of American and British citizens, along with stories of atrocities within ISIS-controlled areas, have motivated the U.S., Britain and other world powers to intervene by launching airstrikes and arming allies in the region. 

Unfortunately, the threats in Afghanistan are experiencing a resurgence, gaining new strength as coalition forces withdraw. 

The Taliban still maintains a foothold in Helmand province, which The Washington Post writes, raises "considerable doubts about [Afghan forces]' ability to prevent future Taliban advances" after Western troops leave.

The New York Times reported just last week the Taliban has made advances in northern Afghanistan as well, giving it complete control of two districts and more power than it has had in the region in years. 

U.S. military officials have repeatedly said the Afghan military of today is vastly superior to just a few years ago, saying they're confident Afghanistan will continue to improve. But it's important to remember, though we don't hear as much about them, the country's insurgents aren't gone yet. 

This article contains images from Getty Images.