Musa Khan Jalalzai
Last week, a number of Afghan parliamentarians from the Kunduz province accused the national unity government and its armed forces for supporting terrorist organisations like ISIS and Taliban. They alleged that military commanders were providing arms, financial assistance and sanctuaries to terrorists, and transported their suicide bombers to their destinations. These were some of the most disturbing accusations in the Afghan history at the floor of parliament.
The MPs also accused the Afghan National Army (ANA) commanders for handing over dozens of check posts along with sophisticated arms to the Taliban. An MP from the Kunduz province, Miss Fatima Aziz said that defence and interior affairs ministries failed to maintain security and law and order in the country. She also accused police commanders for facilitating Taliban against ANA positions. “All Afghan officials in the Kunduz province, including the ANA, police and local government officials in cooperation with the people from central government, handed the city to the Taliban,” said Miss Aziz.
The Afghan opposition perceives the persisting disagreement between the two heads of state, and poor leadership as the reason that the Kunduz city fell to the Taliban. Moreover, the prominent military analyst, Javed Kohistani, hammered the ANA for selling weapons to the Taliban. “We have evidence that prove there are people inside the security forces that sell weapons and checkpoints to the Taliban and let their fellow colleagues being arrested by insurgents. There is the type of betrayal that exists among the security forces, especially the local police,” said Mr Kohistani.
Other MPs also levelled the same accusations against ANA commanders and local administration. “Lack of a coherent strategy in the Kunduz province and corruption are the bigger challenges [there],” said Mirdad Nijrabi, head of internal security committee in parliament. The governor of the Kunduz province, Assadullah Omar Khel, slammed Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Murad Ali for the collapse of the city. “I asked that first, we should clear the entire city, but General Murad did not accept my suggestions and acted according to his own plan… In these attacks the people of Kunduz suffered a lot,” said the governor. However, the chief of the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, apologised for his failure to counter Taliban insurgents. Muhammad Masoom Stanekzai acknowledged that the government failed to intercept the Taliban outside the Kunduz city.
In 2016, amid this dirty warfare, the Taliban introduced new strategies of war by controlling districts and provinces without fighting against the Afghan security forces. They entered into negotiations for fixing bargains with ANA commanders on terms and conditions to purchase military check posts, including weapons and soldiers in various provinces. Before the Taliban entered the Kunduz and Helmand provinces, they bribed ANA commanders and local warlords, and allowed them to safely escape the city. The ANA officers are not paid their salaries regularly by the defence ministry, the reason why they sell check posts, weapons and military secrets to terrorist groups.
The Afghan security forces are reluctant to protect the interests of the ruling mafia groups and their American partners. Mismanagement, political interference, ghost soldiers, poor war capabilities and corruption are challenges that have made the forces more vulnerable. Perception of an ethnic war between President Ashraf Ghani and Mr Abdullah Abdullah has badly affected the conglomeration of the ethnic alliance. In August 2016, Mr Abdullah severely criticised President Ghani for his unilateralism. Differences over appointments of governors, military commanders and police officers reached the point of no return. President Ghani wants to take the war to the Northern provinces of the country, while Mr Abdullah does not agree with him, and accuses him of collaboration with the Taliban against ethnic minorities. The recent attacks by the Taliban in Kunduz further intensified their blame game as they failed to adopt a long-term military strategy against the Taliban and the Islamic State.
This way of kleptocratic governance does not benefit the poor and insecure people of Afghanistan, a country where public aspirations are not respected and national interests are not considered the top priority. Both the leaders are busy in sorting out their political issues but have failed to settle the key issues like appointments of governors and military commanders. Last week, the desertion of soldiers to the Taliban and ISIS became a complicated crisis. More than 44 ANA officers disappeared in the United States, and 60 police officers were sold to the Taliban in the Badghis province and 70 in the Helmand province.
The business of war and destruction is profitable in Afghanistan where American and Afghan warlords are dancing side by side. The current situation in the country is worse than at any time since 2001. Today, the Taliban control more than 70 percent of Afghanistan, and target not just the capital but also provinces across the country. As Afghanistan is a resources-rich country, much of the profit from lapis lazuli and gold goes into the pockets of American and Afghan warlords.
Almost 15 years into the war in the country, the US-fed Afghan war criminals, human rights violators and corrupt civil-military officials helped NATO and ISAF in occupying the country. On October 8, 2016, the Pentagon raised the issue of ghost soldiers within the ANA, and assured the Watchdog Agency that the US commanders were struggling to track Afghan active-duty security forces to save the US taxpayer money on those ghost soldiers. According to the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the issue of ghost soldiers is too irksome. SIGAR also expressed concern about the war in the south and the north, and warned that the US money provided to the Afghan security forces could be pocketed by Afghan military commanders under the guise of paying soldiers who have deserted, died or never existed.
As violence grows, the business of destruction and killing expands, and more people die or are injured. Governments of two presidents have miserably failed to positively respond to the looming threat of state collapse as the nation lost trust over their way of governance. The unity government has divided the country in north and south where every president manages his own administration. In districts and municipalities, no election has yet been held for formal government offices at village level. Many of these villages are instead self-governed by a combination of village elders and local councils that act as intermediaries between the communities and governors. The state is now ultimately shrunken, defeated, humiliated and fractured due to the return of war criminals to the government.