Evading Afghanistan’s Entanglement

By Asghar Munir

Due to possible fragmentation within the organization of Taliban, over the dispute of legitimate leadership, Afghan forces with the help of fierce air and fire support of foreign troops have stepped up the quantum of their operations against Taliban. During the said operations, priority have been assigned to Taliban’s command and control centers, bases and hideouts, which have frequently been utilized for launching operations against Afghan and foreign forces troops.

Overall, it has softened the ground for carrying out effective and decisive blow for bringing Taliban to the negotiating table and offering some bargaining leverage to Afghan government. But, unfortunately, there is lack of maintaining the momentum and exerting the required pressure on Taliban from Afghan side.

During the event of Pakistan’s operation Zarb-e Azb against the terrorists in the mountainous and inaccessible tribal belt, concentration and operation of Taliban in Afghanistan has increased and the miscreants who were early involved in carrying out activities in Pakistan have found a safe heaven in the shape of Afghan Taliban. Actually, they all are interlinked and belong to same creed and breed of callous animals having a unique type of cooperation and collaboration. Both the countries must treat them equally, which unfortunately is not the case with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has shown her sincerity by eliminating every creed and the breed of terrorists; whereas, the Afghan government has only resorted to merely blame games.

Pakistan has demanded severe actions against Mullah Fazlullah, but still no action against him has been taken by Afghan government, rather they have established contacts with their organization and US forces in Afghanistan are witness to these illegitimate contacts of Afghan government with the miscreants of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Recently, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz categorically mentioned in the context of Afghan Peace process that Pakistan has some influence on Taliban but it had no control over them, and it was up to the Afghan government to resume talks with Taliban and our job is just of a facilitator.

The Afghan and foreign forces have miserably failed to tackle the very much expected flow of Taliban’s sympathizers and like minded miscreants after fleeing from operation Zarb-e- Azb.

The fall of Kunduz was a major display of the Afghan military and intelligence failure, which must have brought unforgettable lessons for them to secure the future of Afghans from such a night mare scenario. Separating these terrorists as Afghani or Pakistani Taliban is not right and justifiable, such tagging should only be done for mere identification; basically, they all belong to same creed and breed of callous animals having a unique cooperation and collaboration against humanity.

Unfolding and analyzing the deteriorating peace situation in Afghanistan and specifically the Kunduz debacle, it is felt by the security experts that there is lack of operational understanding between the Afghan and foreign forces, either Afghan forces have lost their will to fight or they are still presuming and letting the job card of operation on Foreign forces. Collectively, there is a laxity of action against Taliban in Afghanistan, besides, there is a wider expectation that, Afghan part of the job against Taliban would also be executed by Pakistani forces, which seems to be an incongruous expectation.

On the other hand, the triumph of the US assignment in Afghanistan has also been termed as reaching at a decisive stage. Earlier, the Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, during his February 2015 announcement; regarding the deployment of US troops in Afghanistan, mentioned that the United States is considering a number of changes to the US mission in Afghanistan, including slowing the drawdown timetable and rethinking the US counter-terrorism mission. On March 16, 2015, it was indicated by US official’s that the United States was likely abandoning its plans to cut the number of US troops to 5,500 at the end of the year.

The United States could allow many of the 9,800 troops in Afghanistan to remain beyond 2015.The recent announcement by the US president has maintained the said status of troops as was disclosed in mid March 2015. It must be recalled that a visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Washington, DC from March 22-25, 2015 was basically intended to discuss the said issues.

A number of think tanks and other security experts have earlier suggested to US policy makers that the security environment prevailing in Afghanistan continuously warranted the revision of drawdown rate and timeline. The Afghan Forces faced numerous challenges during the initial months of 2015 which significantly hindered their capacity to assume the responsibility for the country’s security. The sudden fall of Kunduz at the hand of Taliban,

confirmed the assessment of the fragility of Afghan forces and their lack of capability and capacity to absorb the shocks of Taliban attacks, which ultimately resulted in the revision of actual US plan of troops evacuation from Afghanistan.

In addition to above mentioned plan, it was very important to have a smooth running government in Afghanistan which could have maneuverable control on the affairs of the government and ability and capacity to implement; its taken decisions through implementing governance tools. The first principle for achieving such status was to maintain effective control over the held terrain.

Hence, for Afghanistan, the insurgency itself threatens the Afghan government’s control over terrain. Taliban attack patterns in 2014 were reported to be not typical of the previous two years. The Taliban were witnessed; conducting high profile attacks on district centers and security checkpoints throughout the country in late 2014, often with massed, coordinated assaults. These factors led to higher casualty rates for both Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians in 2014, compared to any of the last six years in Afghanistan.

The pattern of a relentless Taliban existence outside Kabul fairly indicated that the insurgency was fighting for more than remote district centers, and furthermore that it could regenerate itself and strengthen its military capability. For Afghan government and the foreign forces, that continued threat, widely alerted to set conditions for greater security challenges in 2015. The escalation in high profile attacks within Kabul was indicative of the capability that Taliban leveraged to threaten the presence of Western interests in Kabul.

Far from defeated, the ongoing Afghan insurgency would remain a serious challenge which could reverse the earlier gains in Afghanistan after spilling lot of blood and treasure. Some experts view that this assessment contradicts some more optimistic statements by US leaders. Previously, the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai was actively pursuing peace negotiations with the Taliban, but increased fracturing within the Taliban impeded a comprehensive peace deal between the Taliban and Afghan government.

Besides, Security forces mostly failed to take timely actions against Taliban, as in case of Kunduz province, they were also unable to prevent the Taliban from expanding local governance institutions within contested Districts, probably it was the reason that the fall of Kunduz took place so easily, as early work was already been done by Taliban, through encircling the province through slow and steady advances by exploiting the Afghan government governance and security weaknesses.

The insurgency’s resilience in the face of Afghan forces clearing operations earlier suggested that Afghan forces also lack the ability to clear and hold the terrain decisively. In addition to Taliban in Afghanistan, the Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups continue to be maintaining fortified presence in Afghanistan for launching terrorist’s activities within Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda maintains safe havens in Afghanistan from which it continues to provide support to global terrorist activity. The recent actions by Afghan Forces with the help of US support against Taliban and Al-Qaeda nerve centers, is a key reminder that the terrorist group is very much existing in Afghanistan and there is an urgent need to dismantle their operational capabilities. As concerns are also ambitiously rising over the reports of groups affiliating with the Islamic State is spreading in Afghanistan, hence, there must be a

comprehensive regional and international plan to tackle and avoid entanglement of the menace, and otherwise this region could not be saved to become another Iraq or Syria.

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