Dr Muhammad Khan
THE suicide attack in the safest area of Kabul, the diplomatic zone, killing over 90 and wounding more than 400 people is a condemnable act. This was the worst attack witnessed in the recent years, where the civilian casualties are in such a large number. Earlier, in April, 2017, there was a huge attack on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif, killing approximately 100 soldiers. Besides, in another attack on May 3, 2017, eight people were killed at least. All these attacks are being conducted with consistency and in high security zones, thus questioning the effectiveness of Afghan National Security forces.
The attack of May 31, 2017 was conducted near Zanbaq Square in the heavily fortified zone, speaks security lapses to a greater extent. Afghan Taliban denied their involvement in the attack, thus, it is likely that, IS (Islamic State Khorasan; ISK) might have behind this deadliest attack. Nevertheless, the Afghan spying network National Directorate of Security (NDS) consider Haqqani group, linked with Taliban, behind this attack.
The issue is not, who is behind this attack, but whose purpose it serves in the changing geopolitical environment at regional and global level. Besides, it authenticates the security lapses in an area, which is highly fortified, heavily guarded with surveillance elements and police check posts in huge numbers. How come it was possible for the truck carrying over 1500 Kg explosives, passed through the security wall before it entered the diplomatic area, near German Embassy. Someone might have checked this truck, its purpose of getting into this sensitive area.
As per the Jessica Donati, the reporter of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ in Kabul, “the explosion happened close to Western embassies, government institutions and the residences of high-ranking officials. It’s the most fortified part of the city, which can be reached only by passing through several checkpoints.” In fact this is a question, where Afghan Government and Afghan National Security institutions come under criticism. Simply blaming Haqqani and a third country would not absolve the Kabul regime from its basic responsibilities.
After all there is regime at Kabul, which claims to be exercising command and control over the entire Afghanistan through its highly trained over 350,000 security forces and state of art spying network (NDS) and the best surveillance system, which can track any miscreants while entering into Afghan territory from anywhere. Where were all these elements at the time of attack on May 31, 2017? It was not possible without involvement of insiders. The explosive laden truck passed through all check points. This is a story behind every attack in Afghanistan, conducted in last six months. Each time the Kabul regime would blame Taliban and Pakistan behind all attacks without explaining the security lapses, the misgoverned and rift within the coalition partners. Moreover, there are interests of major players of international power politics and Afghanistan has always acted as hub of such power games.
It is exactly like the earlier attack at Mazar-e-Sharif, whose report has yet not being made public, owing to security lapses from within. The March 8, 2017 attack on Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital, killed approximately 50 people, later revealed that the attackers were dressed as doctors and there were insiders’ involvement. An injured soldier of the Mazar-e-Sharif questioned Afghan Army Command on April 22, 2017 that, “When an attacker enters the base, why was he not challenged? There is not just one barrier or security gate, there are seven or eight.” A similar question arises here. As the BBC correspondence, Waheed Masood said, “I have taken this route many times. This is one of the most heavily fortified areas of Kabul – the so-called Green Zone. There is a boom gate. Every vehicle is stopped and IDs are checked.”
Instead of deceiving its people and blaming Pakistan for every bad incident, the Afghan Government should try to extend its writ over the entire geographical areas of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, currently, the effectiveness of the Kabul regime is questionable even in the capital, the security lapses with consistency is a clear evidence of this fact.
The way forward for the Ashraf Ghani-Abdullah Abdullah Government in Kabul is to take all the stakeholders on board. Taliban is a reality in Afghanistan. They cannot be side-lined nor will they surrender. They have much more areas under their influence as Kabul regime has. Then, there is emerging grouping and regrouping of ISK, whose presence was recognized by US Military commander in Afghanistan. Even US military tried to explode their hideouts by dropping 22000 pounds, mother of all bombs, but, it was a futile exercise.
Rather getting directives from New Delhi or elsewhere, Afghan rulers should better think for the future of their own country; restoration of its peace and stability. There should be only one point agenda for the Afghan leadership to ponder about; “A peaceful, stable and economically prosperous Afghanistan suits whom and whose purpose it serve, while being unstable?” Apart from the Afghan Government, this question is for Afghan scholars, the wider academic circle and intelligentsia.
— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.