A bleak outlook for Afghanistan and a way forward: Part One

Operation ATTENTIONby Mathieu Potter, NPSIA Masters student and Rideau Institute Progressive Public Policy Intern

As conflict in Iraq and Syria captures the bulk of media attention, ongoing instability in Afghanistan has seemingly failed to generate much interest among the Western public. This is perhaps an indication of a broader ‘fatigue’ with Afghanistan’s ongoing and intractable conflict with insurgent groups like the Taliban. Despite a decade-long NATO-led and UN-sanctioned campaign to stabilize and develop Afghanistan, positive progress has largely been overshadowed by an apparently endless series of challenges and setbacks that continue to plague all major sectors of Afghan society.

Some of the challenges identified in the Afghan security sector include issues of loyalty and high desertion rate, the level of corruption and the lack of full control over government militias, human rights violations and the lack of intelligence capabilities and gathering.

According to a recent report to the European Parliament, Afghanistan’s security is degrading. The Taliban insurgency has made significant territorial gains, with estimates placing them in control of close to a fifth of the country.  To make matters worse, the Islamic state in the Khorasan (ISK), an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), emerged in 2015 and currently operates in Afghanistan’s eastern region in reported collusion with the Pakistani Taliban. While the ISK’s ambitions have been stymied by conflict with the Afghan Taliban and pro-government forces, the group (should claims of responsibility be taken seriously) has shown itself capable of inflicting serious casualties with an attack on Kabul’s main military hospital. As violence escalates, the brunt of the conflict is borne by Afghan civilians who, according to UNAMA, suffered their highest number of casualties in 2016 since reporting began in 2009.

With all this politicking, it’s easy to see why Afghans and Afghanistan’s allies alike are frustrated and confused.

Afghanistan’s woes are not solely attributable to its deteriorating security situation. Political power struggles and rampant corruption have severely undermined the legitimacy of the central Kabul government and harmed its support among the population. The delivery of public services remains inefficient and rife with corruption. Meanwhile, meaningful reform and development initiatives have taken a backseat to infighting within the ironically named ‘national unity government’ (NUG) between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. The power struggle extends beyond the executive, with Afghanistan’s parliament voting to oust seven NUG ministers for a perceived failure to achieve their mandates.

With Afghanistan muddling along at best and teetering towards collapse at worst, it is evident that a new approach is required if the beleaguered nation is to have some hope at sustainable peace.

See  Part 2 (later this week) for further analysis and a proposed way forward.

For the European Parliament report, click on: Afghanistan: Challenges and perspectives until 2020 (Directorate-General for External Policies, European Parliament, February 2017)

For more on the Kabul military hospital attack, see: After Deadly Attack on Kabul Hospital, ‘Everywhere Was Full of Blood’ (Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed, The New York Times, 8 March 2017)

On civilian casualties in Afghanistan, see: Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016 (UNAMA, February 2017)

For more on Afghanistan’s struggle with corruption, see: Corruption in Afghanistan – What Needs to Change (Transparency International, 16 February 2016)

For more on the conflicts within the Afghan government, see: Power Struggle Continues Inside Afghan Government (Catherine Putz, The Diplomat, 29 November 2016)

Photo credit: Canadian Forces Combat Camera

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3 Responses to “A bleak outlook for Afghanistan and a way forward: Part One”

  1. Demetrios KoutsoufisApril 4, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    Both ladies below have given excellent examples of how insane this ‘war on terror’ is. The USA and NATO are not the first to try (and fail) to exercise control of Afghanistan. These are people who are ornery and don’t take kindly to nations who think they benevolently push them around for their own good.

    On this day, the North Atlantic Treat Organization was formed in 1949 to form a defense pact to contain any possible Soviet attempt to expand westward. Today, after 26 years of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is NATO that is being the aggressor in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iraq and more. This reversal of mission is a perfect example of how contradictory and two-faced the Big Shots of the West are, be they governments or corporations.

  2. Ann CoffeyApril 3, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    Yet another terrible result compliments of US interventions. Once US boots hit the ground in any country, its outlook is automatically bleak. The US doesn’t help anyone but itself.

    In his article in Counterpunch in November 2014, Mike Whitney reports that the Taliban had virtually eradicated poppy production before the United States launched the intervention in 2001. He writes:

    “The Pentagon reversed that achievement by installing the same bloodthirsty warlords who had been in power before the Taliban. Naturally, this collection of psychopaths–who the western media lauded as the ‘Northern Alliance’–picked up where they left off and resumed their drug operations boosting their own wealth and power by many orders of magnitude while meeting the near-insatiable demand for heroin in capitals across Europe and America.”

    Opium production has increased 40-fold in the 13 years of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. U.S. security and the CIA have frequently been accused of aiding drug traffickers around the world and also of exacerbating the crime through intervention. Such is the case in Afghanistan.

  3. Janet VickersApril 3, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    Nations are being destroyed no matter how courageous or committed the people are. Blood is spilled endlessly in order to end civil society so all that remains is fuel for the corporate elite. Machismo with its effective shaming of the feminine aspects like compassion has silenced the human voice and turned all of life into a mindless resource.