KABUL -- Afghan officials are hopeful that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) will achieve "complete victory" over the Taliban in the coming year.
"The [solar] year 1396 [March 2017-March 2018] will be the year of complete victory for the Afghan Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other terror groups who stand against the people and government of Afghanistan," Muhammad Hanif Atmar, national security advisor to President Ashraf Ghani, said in a National Security Council statement December 28.
"In the upcoming year, the enemies of Afghanistan will be completely defeated, following which fundamental programmes for prosperity, peace, development, and reform in the country will begin," the statement said.
'Plans to destroy the Taliban'
The Ministry of Defence also called the upcoming year the year of the Taliban's defeat.
"The [ANDSF] have major plans to destroy the Taliban," said Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh, spokesman for the ministry.
"Powerful intelligence technologies were just made available to us recently," he told Salaam Times. "With this intelligence technology, our ANDSF will be able to discover and neutralise the Taliban's activities."
Radmanesh highlighted the role of the Afghan air force in defeating the Taliban.
"Afghan pilots who are currently studying in the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates and the United States will soon join the ranks of the Afghan air force," he said.
"Upon arrival of these pilots, our international supporters will provide our air force with 20 Super Tucano fighter aircraft as well as 50 fighter helicopters," he said.
With this equipment and training, he said, "Our air force will be able to easily destroy the Taliban's command and control centres, as well as their commanders."
"Military operations and attacks against the Taliban will increase," Radmanesh said. "Commandos from the Afghan National Army Special Forces will intensify their night raids against the Taliban centres and commanders."
"Major headquarters will be established in war zones from which we will initiate major operations to destroy the Taliban," he said. "We will utilise strong intelligence technology to eliminate the Taliban's safe havens, more troops will be deployed to areas where the Taliban have a presence, and we will make the Taliban the target of our heaviest air and ground assaults, wherever we find them."
The training of Afghan military personnel under NATO's Decisive Support programme also continues to be successful, he said.
Taliban face financial crisis, internal divide
Moreover, Radmanesh said, "Financial crisis has weakened the Taliban to the extent that they are easily defeated on battlefields."
"[This] can be seen in the fact that even in such areas as Helmand Province, which once was considered their main base, they are now incapable of conducting their previous activities," he said.
"With the implementation of major strategic military plans by the Afghan government, the Taliban's defeat is imminent in the coming year," he said.
Asadullah Walwalji, a Kabul-based specialist on war and the military, also predicts the demise of the Taliban.
"Once the Taliban faced financial crisis, their defeat became highly probable," he told Salaam Times.
"The second reason for their defeat in the upcoming year, or years, is the split amongst the Taliban," he said. "Since the Taliban currently do not follow a single leader, they have been divided into numerous branches, which are hostile towards each other. We have frequently witnessed the Taliban's internal and deadly conflicts in Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan, Herat, Faryab and Badghis provinces."
"The third factor that leads to the annihilation of the Taliban is the loss of their personnel, [as the group is] facing an increasing number of casualties," Walwalji said.
ANDSF resources, support increase
The Taliban's funding sources are in critical condition, while the ANDSF is seeing an increase in resources, according to Gul Ahmad Azami, a member of the Senate committee on homeland security and defence.
"With each passing day, the defeat of the Taliban becomes more imminent," he told Salaam Times.
Unlike the Taliban, whose supporters have stopped offering financial and military assistance, support for the ANDSF is increasing in all international meetings, he said.
"In the most recent case during the Warsaw Summit [in July], Afghanistan's international supporters pledged to pay US $5 billion a year through 2020 to help the [ANDSF]," Azami said. "This will all lead to the eventual defeat of the Taliban and to the security forces' decisive victory."
"Following the death of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor [in May] and their financial weakness, the Taliban have lost their motive to fight," said Muhammad Jan Rasool Yar, former deputy governor of Helmand Province.
"Evidence suggests that a long time ago, the Taliban became extremely weak on the battlefield," he told Salaam Times. The group now lacks the ability to carry out major offensives anywhere, he added.
"The Taliban are a shattered group with no financial sponsor," he said. "There is no doubt that they will be defeated."