Tag Archives: Afghanistan Security Transition

Failure of Security Transition?

My op-ed Outlook Afghanistan published on August 13

Bamiyanis took to streets on Sunday protesting against insecurity on Bamiyan-Kabul roads. Members of provincial council and civil society activists led the demonstration rally. As usual, it did not get due coverage in mainstream Kabul TVs. Slogans on banners warned the Government to maintain security on roads connecting them to the capital, otherwise people will have to take steps for their protection.

According to civil society activists, 32 residents of Bamiyan have been killed during last six months, mostly in Jalrez District of Maidan Wardak and Ghorband District of Parwan on the way to Kabul. They say fuel tankers are torched by Taliban militants. Prices have gone skyrocketing in the province.

In their resolution, protesters have offered volunteer community cooperation to be equipped with ANA forces and maintain security on roads. It shows the declining confidence of people from the most peaceful part of Afghanistan on Government capability and security transition, and must be an alarm for the Karzai Administration as well as ISAF.

Insecurity has increased on roads leading to Bamiyan since the withdrawal of US troops from the Combat Outpost Conlon in Jalrez District in February this year. Bamiyan was the first province to be fully transitioned to the control of Afghan security forces from ISAF troops. With third phase of transition going on across the country, the protest in Bamiyan is an early sign of its failure and alarms of descent into chaos. These incidents are more concerning due to another fact that Taliban militants are particularly targeting individuals from Bamiyan and Hazara ethnic origin regardless of their connection with government or international forces. It could fuel ethnic tensions and seriously undermine perception about capability of Government providing security people in most peaceful parts of the country who have been most supporting and cooperative with Karzai Administration.

Two weeks ago, 11 people were slaughtered by Taliban in Jalrez. Five passengers were taken off a vehicle at Kote Ashro area on Wednesday, August 01. They were brutally tortured, their hands tied behind, eyes taken off and bodies thrown on the highway after beheading. All five were civilians. They were buried in Kabul later. Thousands attended the funeral in Kabul, expressing outrage against the Taliban and Government failure. Speakers were accusing negligence.

Six others were killed in similar brutality on Monday, July 23 in the same area of Jalrez. Their bodies were cut into pieces. All of the 11 civilians butchered belonged to Hazara ethnic group. They were massacred within one kilometer of distance from an ANA check post. Not a single person has been arrested, despite repeated incidents in the same area. Taliban stop vehicles of civilian passengers in Jalrez and Ghorband almost on daily basis. It was always a security risk for government officials and those working with foreign organizations and NGOs, but now ordinary people hesitate traveling to Bamiyan from Kabul by road.

Two New Zealand troops and four agents of National Directorate of Security were killed in a gunfight with insurgents in Shiber, Bamiyan on August 04. Bamiyan is known as the safest province of Afghanistan, but it seems that title no more applies. Insurgent ambushes and IED attacks on ISAF troops and ANSF in the province are limited to Shibar and Saighan districts, which border Baghlan.  However, militants have been able to carry more sophisticated attacks in recent months. Last month in July, the news of ambush on police officials shocked all, marking the worst insurgent attack in Bamiyan with highest death toll in a single attack.

With the local population welcoming and supportive of NATO troops, Taliban have failed to make local presence in Bamiyan. It seems they have started to indiscriminately punish Bamiyanis and terrorize the population. ISAF and ANSF should launch special operations in Shibar, Saighan, Jalrez and Ghorband districts to clear the areas from insurgents.

It must be of serious concern to the Government and ISAF that ordinary civilians from a particular ethnic group are being targeted by the Taliban. The beheadings in Jalrez has already stirred a sense of uncertainty among the people of Bamiyan and Daikundi, increasing their doubts about Karzai’s claims that Afghan National Security Forces can maintain security after foreign troops’ withdrawal. More such incidents can fuel serious ethnic strife. It should be an alarm for the Government to pay serious attention, otherwise the sense of uncertainty can decrease confidence of people and they will prepare for the worst to come.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Concerns on Impact of Transitional Withdrawal

Afghans Fear Economic Disaster, Political Instability

My Outlook op-ed published on June 13

Nowadays talks in political circles and among pundits in Afghanistan are about the post-withdrawal situation and transition process since the US and NATO troops are going to start pulling out from next month. President Obama is going to announce his withdrawal plan and the number of outgoing troops in coming weeks. In Afghanistan, concerns are regarding the ambiguity of transition and the impact of withdrawal on security, economy and stability. It’s not only the hot topic among political circles and policy-advocacy organizations, but also the evening chats of common Afghans, since the news reports have been focusing on these issues nowadays.

Media reports and policy makers have not reflected the public opinion on these issues. Talking to professional educated Afghans in Kabul, one can easily feel the sense of alarm and concern in their reaction. But people in countryside and volatile parts of the country are not aware of these issues and there is less reflection of their thoughts and reaction in local and international media.

However, the civil society, rights organizations, policy advocacy groups and professional educated Afghans in Kabul and other cities are very much concerned. For instance, when Afghan media reported the details of a report by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee predicting a financial disaster in Afghanistan after 2014, it was an alarming topic on every tongue in the capital, which is hugely flourishing on Western dollars and could face an ultimate collapse in the booming banking, housing and industrial production sectors. A friend of mine and sociopolitical commentator Hadi Zaher reacting to the reports of Afghan economic disaster in the US said

a giant bubble has been forming in the housing/land market in the major cities for the last decade. The question now is not about if but when it will burst. Even many Afghan investors are sticking around because of international military presence, once the shield is shaky, they are likely to flee. Up until a month ago, land prices in many suburbs in Kabul were almost equal to prices in suburbs in metropolitan cities in the West. Average investor has half a foot in Kabul and weight in Dubai or elsewhere. Fundamentals of the Afghan economy are notoriously weak, thus likely to plummet. Property prices in Kabul housing schemes are unsustainable and rising independently of booms elsewhere in the Afghan economy. Assume adjustment in aid changes wage structures and they fall, large share of skilled workforce or returned exiles are unlikely to stay. Over the last few years GDP growth has been very volatile – differing by up to 30 percent between two consecutive years, inflation running in the 30s. The US is Afghanistan’s largest export market, how’s that likely to change once ‘transition’ occurs?”

Though the predictions of economic disaster lack serious argument, reaction on these reports work as a thermometer to measure the alarming sense of concern among masses, which is not properly reflected in media.

Besides the economic disaster tale, serious concerns are expressed about the political and security situation in the post-withdrawal Afghanistan. It is common nowadays to hear ordinary Afghans in Kabul fearing a return of the 90s era while talking about the US/NATO withdrawal and the uncertain future. Civil society representatives and analysts are of the view that the transition process is very murky and ambiguous. A policy advocacy activist and civil society representative while talking about the transition process the other day told me

it is very ambiguous. The success of the transition seems to be all depending on certain conditions and outcome of the political settlement being talked about. There is no risk-management options considered! Suppose the planned transition in any of the targeted provinces results in complete failure and the Afghan security forces fail to maintain security, what will be the choice of the US and NATO? It’s not clear!

These concerns are going to get reflected more strongly. Already policy advocacy organizations and think-tanks in Kabul have started debates to reflect these concerns about the impact of the withdrawal of international troops. For instance, a policy advocacy organization and think-tank The Mass Movement Mobilization of Afghanistan is going to convene a high-level conference in Kabul in coming weeks inviting top security analysts, scholars, political experts, politicians and diplomats to discuss the impact assessment of withdrawal on political stability in Afghanistan and particular effect on the most vulnerable segments of Afghan society like women. The organizers of the conference think

the current superfluous debate portraying the positive impact of a political settlement with the Taliban and post-withdrawal transition does not reflect the concerns and anxieties of the majority of the Afghan people and civil society.”

One reason for such deep concerns is that the stakeholders do not bother to keep the public informed about the process. Things are unclear; therefore an alarming sense of concern is prevailing among masses.

According to a report on the Daily Beast yesterday, President Obama is likely to announce the withdrawal plan starting from next month on July 15. The report says the US troops—currently about 100,000—will be reduced by upward of 30,000 over the next 12-18 months. However these troops to the pulled out from next month constitute the number of troops—30,000—deployed in the surge of 2009. And there will still be about 70,000 US troops. But the decision announced earlier by NATO and Washington to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015 remains firm.

The fact is that all stakeholders including the international community and the Afghan Government know these concerns of the masses, and the fact that once the process of withdrawal starts and it gets more coverage in local Afghan media with intense discussions generating awareness, public reaction will be more visible. The stakeholders should bother to listen and consider addressing these concerns; otherwise it will be the first factor for failure of the entire process.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized