Time for Afghans to get their house in order

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Afghans should fix their home first

Rather than just focusing on responding to terror attacks, the Afghan military strategists should chalk out a proactive strategy which engages the enemy in their stronghold.

The Taliban is on a relentless warpath. Last month, it made one of its boldest attempts in taking over a provincial capital since its brief occupation of the city of Kunduz in 2016. This time it targeted Ghazni, a strategic city less than 100 miles from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. An estimated 1,000 Taliban fighters swarmed the city before they were eventually driven out. Moreover, a series of Taliban attacks across several neighbouring provinces compounded an already bad situation. In the Ghormanch district of Faryab province, the Taliban killed or captured almost all the 106 men of an entire Afghan army corps, along with 15 border policemen. The Taliban then overran an Afghan army outpost and checkpoint in Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan province, killing at least 39 soldiers and police.

The most devastating blow however, came when the Taliban attacked a commando unit guarding the Ajristan district in the Ghazni province, killing anywhere from 40 to 100 of the Afghan military’s most elite troops.

It clearly illustrates that insurgents have the capacity to carry out ambitious and bold operations on multiple fronts, while the Afghan government has struggled to respond on a single front in Ghazni. According to the United States military, the Afghan government controls just over half of the country’s nearly 400 districts, about 56 percent. Taliban insurgents’ control 14 percent, and the rest of the country is contested. The number speaks for themselves that the Afghan government has no control over the situation.

But for all this mess the Afghan government has presented its all-time favourite excuse; that it’s fighting a war imposed on it by its neighbours or regional powers. But by always making this excuse, the Afghan government can’t escape from its responsibility. If Afghans introspect honestly; they can solve many issues which are flaring up this bloody insurgency on their own. Let’s have a look at some internal factors of Afghan society and government which are contributing to the insurgency.

Firstly, the Afghan government has weak intelligence. Afghan forces require a robust intelligence collection and targeting capability if they want to turn back the tide of a reinvigorated Taliban insurgency. Afghanistan intelligence agency i.e. National Directorate of Security (NDS) not only suffers from an inability to share and disseminate actionable intelligence, but also is plagued by accusations of favouritism and nepotism. While its ethnic composition is dominated by Panjshiris Tajiks from Panjshir; a group affiliated with the former Northern Alliance. The NDS ethnic composition poses challenges to the intelligence agency’s ability to infiltrate the Pashtun groups most likely affiliated with the continued insurgency in Afghanistan. There is also urgent need to increase more advanced voice intercept capabilities and cross communication between the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and security forces in the field.

According to the US military, the Afghan government controls little over half of the country’s nearly 400 districts, about 56 percent.

Secondly, Afghanistan also faces the problem of widespread corruption. Some of the analysts blame the impotence among the military apparatus to curtail established corruption. Public opinion and observers recognise the army as a deeply corrupt and inept institution, even lacking the power to provide security to its servicemen. Such ineptitude is said to be the main reason emboldening the Taliban to make advances against the government forces across the country and carry out fatal assaults against them and the public.

Moreover the Tajiks occupy more top posts in comparison to their population against other ethnic groups. For example, the presence of the Hazaras and other ethnic groups is smaller in size compared to their population. Pashtuns are also included but a large number of Pashtun personnel are from the eastern areas of the country. Only a small number of the southern Pashtuns who make up an ideological and ethnic base of Taliban are included in the armed forces. Such an imbalance creates mistrust and misunderstanding among different sectarian groups towards the army, making it look like a foreign force.

There seems to be a lack of a clear military strategy. The country’s security apparatus as a complex lacks security and strategic analysts to lay the foundation of a combat policy ahead of the defence ministry, to press forward against the militants using a well-studied defence program. Rather than just focusing on responding to insurgent’s attack, the Afghan military strategists should chalk out a proactive strategy which engages the enemy in their stronghold.

Finally, Afghans have become disconnected and alienated from the national government and the country’s other power arrangements. They are profoundly dissatisfied with Kabul’s inability and unwillingness to provide basic public services and justice. Afghan citizens intensely resent the abuse of power, impunity, and lack of justice that have become entrenched over the past decade. The inability of the Afghan government to respond to pleas of common Afghan people allows the Taliban to impose its own brutal forms of order and justice and to develop a foothold in Afghan communities.

For fixing all the above issues which are fuelling and strengthening insurgency, Afghans don’t need outside help. It’s high time that Afghans should take charge of their home rather than just complaining as it’s a bitter truth that no one else will come to fix your country. Moreover, the Afghan society should also take initiative and should focus on realignment, readjustments and reconciliation of the opposing tendencies and conflicting ideologies. It should reach at some compromise for national integration and social solidarity. The ethnic groups should learn peaceful coexistence.

Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency ViewsAround can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com

By Manish Rai


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