Taliban is fast reclaiming the lost territory in Afghanistan by launching a series of high profile attacks in the country. Last month Taliban with one of its boldest attempts it took over a provincial capital since the time of its brief occupation of the city of Kunduz in 2016. Recently, it tried to take over the strategically important city Ghazni, which is less than 100 miles from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. An estimated 1,000 Taliban fighters swarmed the city but were eventually driven out. Moreover, a series of Taliban attacks in several neighboring provinces has escalated the tension and situation in the region has changed from bad to worse. In the Ghormanch district of Faryab province Taliban fighters are believed to have captured all 106 men of an entire Afghan army corps, along with 15 border policemen. After this incident, the Taliban overran an Afghan army outpost and checkpoint in Baghlan-e-Markazi district in Baghlan province, killing at least 39 soldiers and police. The most devastating blow to the Afghan government, however, came when Taliban fighters attacked a commando unit that was guarding Ajristan district in Ghazni province, eliminating between 40 and 100 of the Afghan military’s most elite troops.
All these incidents and attacks clearly show that insurgents have a capacity to carry out ambitious and bold operations on multiple fronts. Meanwhile the Afghan government has been struggling while responding on a single front, Ghazni. According to the United States military, the Afghan government controls just over half of the country’s nearly 400 districts about 56 per cent of the territory. Taliban insurgents control 14 per cent, and the rest of the country is contested. These numbers speak for themselves how Afghan unity government has lost its control over the situation.
While the Afghan government has been reiterating that it’s fighting a war imposed on it by its neighbours or regional powers, it has failed to address myriad issues and challenges after regaining the control in the region. The government can’t shift the blame and escape from its responsibility. Provided the Afghans do an honest introspection they can solve many issues that are flaring the violent insurgency on their own.
Many observers and analysts have pointed at the deep-rooted corruption in the military apparatus as resulting in an impotent state that can’t fully use its strength. Afghan army is viewed as a deeply corrupt and inept institution, even lacking the power to provide security to its servicemen. It is the main reason that shifts power and helps the resurgence of Taliban and other fighters. It is because of the said reason that Taliban has been able to make advances against the government forces across the country and carry out fatal assaults.
There is also sectarian crisis in Afghanistan that the government has been unable to put down. Tajiks occupy top posts in the military despite their population being lesser than other ethnic groups. For example, the presence of the Hazaras and other ethnic groups is lesser compared to their population. Pashtuns are also included but a large number of Pashtun personnel are from the eastern areas of the country. Only a small number of southern Pashtuns, who make up an ideological and ethnic base of Taliban, are included in the armed forces. Such an imbalance creates mistrust and misunderstanding among different sectarian groups towards the army, making it look like a foreign force.
The country’s security apparatus as a complex lacks security and strategic analysts who could put forth a combat policy before the defense ministry – the policy to press forward against militia under a comprehensive defence program. Rather than just focusing on responding to insurgent’s attack Afghan military strategists should chalk out a proactive strategy which engages the enemy in their stronghold.
Afghan forces require a robust intelligence gathering capability if they want to turn back the tide on Taliban insurgency. Afghanistan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) not only suffers from an inability to share and disseminate actionable intelligence, but also is plagued by controversies like favouritism and nepotism and its ethnic composition dominated by Panjshiris Tajiks from Panjshir, a group affiliated with the former Northern Alliance. The NDS composition poses several challenges to the intelligence agency’s ability to infiltrate the Pashtun groups who are believed to be affiliated with the continued insurgency in Afghanistan. There is also urgent need to increase more advanced voice intercept capabilities and cross communication between the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and security forces in the field.
A large number of Afghans feel disconnected and alienated from the national government and the country’s other power arrangements. They are profoundly dissatisfied with Kabul’s inability and unwillingness to provide basic public services and justice. Afghan citizens intensely resent the abuse of power, impunity, and lack of justice that have become entrenched over the past decade. The inability of the government to respond to the appeals of the people allows Taliban to impose its own forms of order and justice and to gain foothold in Afghan communities.
To pave way for peace and a stable government Afghans don’t need an outside help. The government has to address the issues and plug all holes that are fuelling insurgency and causing disenchantment among the masses. It is time that the government takes charge instead of blaming others and shying away from its own responsibilities. Moreover, the Afghan society should initiate the realignment, readjustment and reconciliation of different ethnic and sectarian groups with conflicting ideologies. It should reach at some compromise for national integration and social solidarity. The groups need to invest more in peaceful coexistence.