AFGHANISTAN imbroglio is a result of multiple factors. Post-Cold War era and later 9/11 upshot for which Afghanistan was chosen as a concourse to play war against terrorism, never let this country relish amity. Unfortunately this country suffered because of international politics but the internal dynamics of country were equally contributing factor for its unrest. Interest based politics, socio-economic conditions, ethnic groups and unending domestic discord has shaken Afghanistan more. The security apparatus seems disturbed because of power sharing division among groups. Power games between different political entities have left permanent affects to the political landscape. Be it dismissal of Taliban regime or Hamid Karzai’s 13 years long government tenure, Afghanistan’s catch-22 remained the same. Following the presidential elections in April-June 2014, Afghanistan witnessed intense political wrangling between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah as both had accused the other of fraud in the elections. Later the coalition government was formed with Ashraf Ghani as President and Abdullah Abdullah as CEO of the National Unity Government.
Apart from the presence of Allied Forces, Afghan security apparatus Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) consists of Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Border Police (ABP), National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Afghan Local Police (ALP). ALP is a US funded local defense force to counter Taliban. Reportedly, Karzai had strongly disapproved the raising of ALP. Afghan security apparatus is infected with widespread corruption, lack of coordination, ethnic fragmentation, ghost employees and increasing disposals. In last few quarterly reports of the US Government’s Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), it is pointed that audits of ANA and ANP data does not confirm the exact number of soldiers and policemen at their disposal.
The report mentions that there is a huge number of ‘ghost soldiers’. Official figures (February 2015) for numbers of personnel including unknown number of ghost soldiers are 167,024 for ANA (not including civilian personnel) and 154,685 for ANP. The year 2017 quarterly reports are almost on same lines as of previous years. In a latest edition of this report the war in Afghanistan can be characterized as a stalemate which can deteriorate further in favour of the insurgency. The Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) have not performed any better this year than last year. According to report, Taliban are on a path to have another good year. Security incidents and civilian casualties remain high. Insurgent groups have continued their high-profile attacks in Kabul and the number of districts under Taliban control or influence remains the same.
In quarterly report to Congress, the U.S Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction John Sopko said that in the first six weeks of year 2017, 807 Afghan soldiers were killed in the ongoing war in the country. The report also comes after a recent UN report indicated that 11,418 civilians were killed in the country last year – the highest since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009. One can easily understand the dilemma of soldiers where US President Trump in his policy talked about increasing the number of troops by the US and NATO in Afghanistan. According to the report, Afghan military and police forces have grown, taken lead responsibility for the country’s security, and show increased effectiveness but still serious problems persist.
A dangerous and stubborn insurgency controls or exerts influence over areas holding about a third of the Afghan population. In report it’s also mentioned that US has almost spent 70 billion dollars so far and is spending 4 billion dollars annually. Despite spending such an enormous amount for Afghanistan, these security forces hold control of less than 60 percent of Afghanistan. Whereas rest of the country is under control of Taliban or other insurgents. The report argues that security priorities guiding US decisions early in the war effort negatively impacted the current priorities of building ANDSF long-term sustainability capabilities. The report, which is the first of its kind, concludes that the ANDSF is plagued by debilitating attrition, corruption, equipment shortages, incomplete training, a lack of security infrastructure and widespread illiteracy. SIGAR’s report shows attrition is a crippling issue faced by many branches of the ANDSF.
The Afghan Special Forces is the only branch with low abrasion and high re-enlistment rates. SIGAR cited that from 2013 through 2016, attrition within the Afghan National Army (ANA) was so high that “about one-third of the force was lost annually. Such high attrition increasingly created a military with little to no training.” These staggering attrition rates were largely fuelled by high numbers of casualties, a lack of ministerial administrative support systems behind service members and the continued high illiteracy rates of the general population. Given high casualties, the ANDSF prioritized force protection. Instead of taking on the Taliban’s rural support zones, ANDSF limited the mission to urban areas in an attempt to reduce casualties.
A preview of this SIGAR report suggests failed policies of US that after so many years Taliban still are able to hold a major chunk in Afghanistan. Instead of bringing their house in order, Afghan leadership generally uses an intensified blame game against Pakistan as an only approach of their diverting strategy. It would be sensible for Afghan government and people to remain alive to the situation and differentiate between their friends and foes. Pakistan has always extended hand to Afghanistan for cordial relations but narrating a mantra of ‘do more’ either by US or Afghanistan will not help in resolving disputes, restoring peace and expected results of time old war against terrorism.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.