News Analysis |
The Afghan Taliban have captured another key district, according to US media reports. The Andardarah distict in the province of Farah was overrun temporarily by the Taliban. This comes a few days after the Afghan security forces suffered heavy casualties in another district of Farah province, US media reported.
Recently, hundreds of seasoned and battle-hardened troops of the US Army were sent to Afghanistan to provide the Afghan security forces a ‘new type of training’. However, the fact that the Taliban can manage to readily stage such attacks raises doubts over whether newer training methods would help the Afghan National Security Forces secure much-needed success.
Afghanistan is bordered by several important states. Iran, Russia and China all have stakes in the stability of Afghanistan, not to mention Pakistan. Some reports indicate that Russia is tacitly backing the Taliban.
The Afghan Army has been suffering from all sorts of problems. Low morale, desertions, soldiers going AWOL during training and corruption all contribute towards more and more Afghan Taliban victories. Furthermore, the Afghan government is not economically stable enough to fund its own armies and, instead, depends heavily on aid from the US. A lack of continuity in US policy towards Afghanistan also adds to the problems the Afghan security forces face.
By some estimates, the Afghan Taliban control about half the country’s territory but in January of this year, the Pentagon began hiding data now how much territory is controlled by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction showed that the US has wasted $70 billion in trying to train Afghan security forces.
In August of last year, Trump announced his strategy for Afghanistan. He aimed at sending more troops to Afghanistan to reverse the Taliban onslaught and force the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. That aim, however, is yet to be realized. The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, announced ‘unconditional talks’ with the Afghan Taliban a couple of weeks ago. Furthermore, US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that elements within the Taliban are open to peace talks. It is the Taliban that seems to be forcing the Afghan government and the US to the negotiating table, not the other way around.
The US invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, accusing the Taliban regime of giving refuge to Al-Qaeda which was responsible for the September 11th attacks. After the Taliban regime was routed from Kabul and major cities of Afghanistan, the US declared victory. 17 years down the road, the Taliban control nearly as much territory in Afghanistan as they did before 9/11. The US and the government in Afghanistan have failed in counter-insurgency operations against the Taliban, who control most of the countryside.
Pakistan has had considerable success in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. Pakistan is more suited to train and advise Afghan government forces. Russia has also undertaken counter-insurgency exercises with the Pakistan Army.
Parallels from history can be easily drawn. The Red Army in the 1980s also controlled Kabul and major city centers, much like the US-backed government does now. Back then, the Mujahideen guerilla forces controlled the country-side and hit-and-run tactics over the span of a decade ultimately forced the Red Army to leave Afghanistan.
Similarly, in the mid-2000s, the Afghan Taliban began as an insurgency and kept ambushing Afghan security forces for over a decade. The US is making the same mistakes that the Red Army did and history is repeating itself. It is not possible to build a disciplined, cohesive and highly motivated army simply by pumping billions of dollars into it.
Afghanistan is bordered by several important states. Iran, Russia and China all have stakes in the stability of Afghanistan, not to mention Pakistan. Some reports indicate that Russia is tacitly backing the Taliban. US Secretary of State has also accused Russia of arming the Taliban. Increasingly, Iran is reaching out to the Taliban. According to Radio France International’s website, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Core is actively supporting Taliban opposing the Afghan government.
The Pentagon began hiding data now how much territory is controlled by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction showed that the US has wasted $70 billion in trying to train Afghan security forces.
However, the extent and nature of the connection between Iran and Taliban remains debatable. India is investing in infrastructure in Afghanistan besides training Afghan Army Officers in its military academy. China as well is increasing its footprint in Afghanistan, though it is not involved in any military capacity.
For any viable peace process, all stakeholders have to be on the same page. Differing and often irreconcilable narratives do not help in this regard. Pakistan has always supported an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process. Furthermore, Pakistan has had considerable success in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. Pakistan is more suited to train and advise Afghan government forces. Russia has also undertaken counter-insurgency exercises with the Pakistan Army.
Although Nusrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, has said that Afghan forces retook the embattled district, eight police officers were killed and 10 others were injured during the attack by the Taliban. Donald Trump’s strategy is almost entirely military-focused. Pakistan has repeatedly called for dialogue as such policies bore no fruit before either and prove to be counter-productive, undermining peace building efforts.