Dastardly terror
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Imtiaz Gul |

No words are enough to condemn the dastardly truck bombing in Kabul that took at least 80 lives and left hundreds wounded, some of them fatally.

Regardless of the Taliban denial, the bombing in the Green Zone does highlight the ability of militants – whether Taliban or Daesh.

The huge blast shook the Afghan capital at a time when the US is still weighing options as to whether sending more troops will contain and halt the spate of violence from the Taliban’s ‘Operation Mansoori’, although the insurgents denied their involvement in the abhorred incident.

The latest attack, preceded by a suicide bombing in Helmand with at least 18 casualties on May 27, underscores several bitter ground realities.

Read more: Deadly Kabul Bombing: ISIS or Haqqanis?

Firstly, these attacks expose the fragility of the security landscape. Regardless of the Taliban denial, the bombing in the Green Zone does highlight the ability of militants – whether Taliban or Daesh – to strike even in the most guarded parts of the capital.

Secondly, the surge in violence and shrinking government writ raise questions about the ability of the Afghan defense forces and security agencies.

In an April 8 report, the New York Times had spoken about a “widening gap between soldiers and commanders”. At the top, the paper quoted a senior official as saying, “is a class of often incompetent generals, many of them from the Communist or the civil war period who had strong political ties. The soldiers and police officers are treated as an “untouchable” class, dying at an average of close to 20 a day.”

The Afghan forces reel from corruption within the ranks and are overshadowed by the phenomenon of ghost soldiers.

This also drew negative comments from American officials. “We hear story after story of commanders who steal the fuel, sell it to the Taliban, who take the weapons we – you – pay for and sell it to the Taliban,” John Sopko, the United States special inspector general for Afghanistan, said in a recent speech. “The irony of it is, the terrorists are at the end of our supply chain.”

Read more: Reactions and repercussions of the Kabul attack

Thirdly, the Afghan forces reel from corruption within the ranks and are overshadowed by the phenomenon of ghost soldiers. In July 2016, the US military reported Afghan defense strength at 319,595. But the Associated Press agency quoted a high-level Afghan official as saying that the best internal estimate was around 120,000.

One supporting evidence came from the Helmand police chief, whom the AP quoted as saying that as many as 40 to 50 percent of the approximately 26,000 personnel assigned to the province did not exist when he asked for help during operations.

Much of the money appeared to be going into someone’s bank account, according to the startribune.com.

Sopko also reckoned that as much as $300 million in annual US salary payments to the Afghan National Police may be based on partly verified or unreconciled data.

The spiraling violence does not appear to have instilled a greater sense of unity within the Kabul ruling elites. This only emboldens all the non-state actors.

Fourth, geopolitics has begun to weigh heavier than ever before; the anti-terror Sunni Muslim-American summit – that singled out Iran as the biggest source of global terrorism and declared war on Daesh – has probably provided an additional impetus to the roughly 20 terrorist outfits that, according to President Ghani, are currently operating in and out of Afghanistan. This declaration runs contrary to the Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and Pakistani views on the Afghan situation.

Fifth, Afghan ruling elites still seem to be struggling to join forces to fend off terrorist and Taliban threats. The spiraling violence does not appear to have instilled a greater sense of unity within the Kabul ruling elites. This only emboldens all the non-state actors.

Read more: The Afghan Quagmire: Kabul is not the only victim!

Sixth, the latest string of violence doesn’t augur well for an internally divided government. This also promoted the United States National Intelligence Agency to forecast a grim future in the months ahead.

“Afghan security forces’ performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertions, poor logistics support, and weak leadership,” Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, had warned during a recent hearing on Afghanistan at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Although the situation is deteriorating, one would only hope that the Kabul gathering would put the fears of a third Afghan war to rest.

This situation makes it much more imperative for Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors to also collectively pursue peace and reconciliation. That is why a lot of anxiety prevails ahead of the June 6 international conference in Kabul.

‘Will concerns for an embattled and extremely volatile Afghanistan trump geopolitics during this conference’ is a billion-dollar question.

Although the situation is deteriorating, one would only hope that the Kabul gathering would put the fears of a third Afghan war to rest. But, much more than the international actors, a lot depends on the Afghan leaders to jointly work for peace.

This is also clear from the words of a devout Afghan nationalist and rights’ activist. “I’ve no doubts anymore. Much of Afghan conflict is internal & bad governance & injustices driving us all towards uncertainty & we switch sides,” the activist recently wrote on the micro-blogging website Twitter, unlike her previous views which usually focused on Pakistan as the sole source of instability in her country.

Imtiaz Gul is the founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), an Islamabad-based think tank. He is the author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate. This article was originally published in Daily Times and has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Imtiaz Gul is the founder and Executive Director of Center for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank that he founded in December 2007. He is a prominent columnist and author of several books on South Asia including “Pakistan: Before & After Osama Bin Laden”. He regularly appears as an analyst on Pakistani TV channels as well as the Doha-based Al-Jazeera English/Arabic satellite TV channel for his expertise in areas such as Afghanistan/Tribal Areas / and the Kashmir militancy. He is a prominent columnist writing for the Express Tribune, Daily Times, Foreign Policy and many others. He is the author of several books on South Asia, his latest book “Pakistan: Before & After Osama Bin Laden”. He regularly appears as an analyst on Pakistani TV channels as well as the Doha-based Al-Jazeera English/Arabic satellite TV channel for his expertise in areas such as Afghanistan/Tribal Areas / and the Kashmir militancy. He has presented papers and given talks at universities and international security and counter-terror conferences in Brussels, Tokyo, Berlin, New Delhi, Kabul, New York, Washington, the Hague, Riyadh, Italy, Oslo, Stockholm, Beijing. http://www.imtiazgul.com/

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