News Analysis |
A gunfight ensued in Kabul for over seven hours on Thursday after gunmen attacked a training center of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Kabul. No civilians were harmed, reportedly. But the fact that these attacks are taking place with increasing frequency speaks volumes about the state of security in the war-torn country.
Four suicide bombers entered the grounds of the training center. One of them was killed when his suicide vest exploded. The rest were killed as security forces began taking control of the area, according to an official from the Ministry of Interior. Just a day earlier, 37 people were killed after a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside an education center in Western Kabul. Students were studying there for their college entrance exams.
Millions of refugees, guns, and drugs flooded the tribal regions of Pakistan and gradually permeated throughout the nation. We are still recovering from the effects of the Afghan war in the 1980s.
The Afghan Taliban have denied any involvement in the attack on the education center. Reports claim that ISIS, on the other hand, is claiming responsibility. The Taliban raided a military base in Baghlan in Northern Afghanistan, killing at least 40 security personnel. Baghlan is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan and has a population of nearly a million citizens. At the same time as the attack in Baghlan was taking place, a group of armed men from the Taliban stormed a police check post in the province of Zabul in Qalat city. Several policemen were killed.
A pattern seems to be emerging. The writing was on the wall for those who could see years before the current onslaught by the Taliban began which the security forces are finding extremely difficult to deal with. A day before the simultaneous attacks in Zabul and Baghlan, the Taliban managed to seize another Army base in Faryab province after two days of intense fighting. Almost 40 soldiers out of the total 70 stationed there surrendered to the Taliban. It is not hard to realize that the Taliban has the upper hand. They have had it for quite some time.
The situation in Ghazni, Afghanistan’s second most populous province is even drier. Over 150 civilians have been killed over fighting that has gone on for 5 days in a row. Gunfights continue in the densely populated areas. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan warns that a humanitarian crisis is brewing for the residents of Ghazni. The city is about 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul has been facing power, food and water shortages.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission, 2018 is the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan since 2009. Towards the center of the country in the Uruzgan province, over 70 security personnel have been under siege by the Taliban for about three weeks in a row. It doesn’t look as if they will be successful on their own. Taliban fighters seem to be much more organized, motivated and combat-ready.
A time will come, sooner or later, when political winds shift in Washington and the American taxpayer is unwilling to fund this war anymore
The Afghan security forces, on the other hand, are facing all sorts of problems besides the Taliban. These problems include low morale, being beset with corruption and desertions. There have been instances when Afghan policemen have killed fellow soldiers. Security forces have been known to sell their weapons to the Taliban. Illiteracy also impairs any efforts that the US-led coalition makes to impart effective training to the security personnel.
A damning report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction showed that the US has bungled nearly $70 billion in training Afghan security forces. Various approaches have been tried to improve performance by Afghan security forces but to no avail. Although American policymakers don’t like to admit it, they have failed to create a force in Afghanistan that can handle security on its own.
Speaking of handling matters on its own, the Afghan government can’t pay for itself. This is a huge obstacle to any reasonable guarantee of governance by those in power in Kabul. The total budget for Afghan National Security Forces in FY 2016 was $5.4 billion, out of which $4.1 billion was funded by the United States. A time will come, sooner or later, when political winds shift in Washington and the American taxpayer is unwilling to fund this war anymore. What will Afghan Security forces do then? Polls by Gallup in 2011 revealed that already, more than half of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan.
It is interesting to note that the media in the US talk about every issue in the world, domestic and otherwise, except the war in Afghanistan. From scandals in the Trump administration to the Oscars, a wide variety of subjects are covered by CNN, NBC and Fox News etc. America’s longest war, however, does not get much media attention these days.
Four suicide bombers entered the grounds of the training center. One of them was killed when his suicide vest exploded. The rest were killed as security forces began taking control of the area, according to an official from the Ministry of Interior
This is reminiscent of the situation in Washington in the early 1990s. After the Afghan Jihad and the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the war there was of no import in Washington. President H.W Bush quite famously once asked one of his aides, “Is that thing still going on there?” after he was surprised to know the war had continued years after the Soviet withdrawal.
A similar hands-off policy seems to have been adopted by the current administration. This war is not at the top of the agenda in Trump’s cabinet. As more time passes, the Taliban continue to gain in strength and territory. It will become increasingly difficult for the US to secure a face-saving exit from the war-torn nation. There have been attempts for a cease-fire and peace talks. It looks as though-if the talks are held-they will be on the Taliban’s terms.
When the US abruptly abandoned Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country most affected was Pakistan. Millions of refugees, guns, and drugs flooded the tribal regions of Pakistan and gradually permeated throughout the nation. We are still recovering from the effects of the Afghan war in the 1980s. That is why Islamabad needs to play its cards very carefully. Proactive diplomacy by Pakistan to bring about a peaceful end to the longest war in modern history is the need of the hour. A repeat of what happened in the late 1980s is unacceptable all parties involved.