AFGHANISTAN: BACK TO DRAWING BOARD!
"America must plan her exit at earliest possible before its too late, lest it finds itself burried in the graveyard of the empires." Raja Mujtaba
Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
Recent violence in Kabul has exposed various myths. Foremost is that the declaratory policy of winning of ‘Afghan hearts and minds’ is mere rhetoric, ground reality is the recurring barbaric practices of the American soldiers in Afghanistan, who have indeed been acting like typical occupation forces of medieval era. Recent Los Angeles Times pictures show soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, joyfully posing with dismembered body parts of insurgent corpses. Earlier in January, a video had surfaced showing the US Marines gleefully urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the desecration of the Holy Quran at an American base triggered country wide riots. In March, a US army sergeant went on a night-time shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17; reportedly this incident also involved rape. Sequence looks like a planned monthly calendar of activities.
About the latest photo incident General John Allen, Commander ISAF/NATO, said the incident “represents a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values.” American embassy in Kabul also released a similar statement: “Such actions are morally repugnant, dishonour the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of US soldiers and civilians… and do not represent the core values of the United States or our military”. After each such incident an ‘investigation’ is launched; but in all probability no meaningful punitive action is taken. Hence the recurrences go on.
Aura of successful NATO/ISAF military mission after a decade long ‘hard work of boy’ stands evaporated in the thin air. Well-coordinated attacks by the political resistance entities on seven sites in the heart of Kabul, including four embassies, and three sites in Paktia, Logar and Nangarhar were aimed at humiliating the government and its foreign allies. The fact that insurgents retain the capacity of launching such an extensive and long duration assault confirms that the US/NATO is years away from neutralizing them. These attacks have enhanced Talibans’ bargaining power. For months after the allied invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, there were no Taliban attacks in Kabul. Now they are frequent and fatally effective. This is just one yardstick of measuring the progress. According to a senior US army officer, the Taliban now range freely across much of the country. The US forces barely control the territory they can see from their highly fortified bases.
Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, told a Reuters’ correspondent that the 30 specially trained mujahideen had spent months working with mock-ups of the targets to rehearse the attacks. He claimed that heavy machineguns, rocket grenades and ammunition had been put in place before the assault with inside help from the Afghan security forces. Mujahid said: “The attacks were very successful for us and were a remarkable achievement, dealing a psychological and political blow to foreigners and the government…These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months.” These attacks reinforce the belief that Taliban have hardened sympathisers amongst the most elite security forces on whose support they could count on for stocking and stacking vital logistics, like weaponry, in sensitive zones and for facilitating the infiltrators to reach and use these logistic stocks, on as required basis.
"Knowing that foreigners lack the will to remain in Afghanistan, their intent is to show that Afghan forces are unable to effectively fight the Taliban after the foreign withdrawal," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the “International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research” at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University."The Talibans operating here at both physical and psychological levels…We're only going to see an increase in these attacks…It helps [the militants] ensure political dominance in the new order as they slowly take over." said Dipankar Banerjee, director of New Delhi's “Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.”
Afghan national Army and the Afghan Police are years away from evolving into cohesive national entities. Washington-based “Centre for Strategic and International Studies” reported that US had spent $25 billion from 2001 to 2010 training and equipping the Afghan army and police forces. It spent another $14 billion in 2011. A 2010 “International Crisis Group” study stated that army could disintegrate after the US withdrawal. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis recently reported that the Afghan army, like its government, is neither competent nor trusted. In the absence of firm financial guarantees of sustained footing of bill for these forces, ANA and police could soon disintegrate into gangs of thugs. Last week, NATO ministers discussed the future size and funding needs to sustain Afghan security forces after 2014; rough estimates are $4.1 billion a year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the United States to commit on paper that it would provide “at least $2 billion” a year after US combat troops withdraw. NATO expects Afghan forces to grow to 352,000. Current model of Afghan security forces is focusing heavily on raising of a typical army, trained and equipped to handle aggression by other countries. Ironically post withdrawal Afghan government would require professionally strong civil armed forces capable of maintaining order within the country.
President Karzai has criticized both NATO and Afghan forces and said that an intelligence failure had permitted the insurgents to infiltrate into sensitive areas. “The fact that terrorists were able to enter Kabul and other provinces was an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO,” Karzai’s office stated. Defence Department spokesman George Little said the Pentagon did not believe there had been an intelligence failure. “If we’re held to the standard to have to know precisely when and where each insurgent attack is going to occur, I think that’s an unfair standard,” he said. The US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said at a news briefing: “We had received a great deal of intelligence that the Haqqanis were planning these kinds of attacks.” Two captured insurgents reportedly claimed that they represented the Haqqani network. Haqqanis now have sufficient presence and strength within Afghanistan to carry out such activities. Panetta and Dempsey were cautious enough to not to link the attack to Pakistan. “We’re not prepared to suggest that this emanated out of Pakistan,” Dempsey said. Fixated in his campaign year framework, Senator John McCain opined that such attacks reflected the risk of the drive to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan!
As per the objectives of two track strategy, the war was to end with the Taliban begging for negotiation after they were appropriately "degraded" by allied attacks. Exactly the opposite is happening. Americans are ready to give-in anything in exchange for rhetoric of “victory”. Taliban don't seem interested in allowing Americans even such symbolic concession. As of now Americans do not have a dialogue partner with whom they could negotiate with a fair degree of assurance that whatever is agreed to would be implemented. So, back to drawing board!