May 12th 2020 was a very unfortunate day for the people of Afghanistan. The day began with an attack on the maternity ward in a hospital at Kabul and ended with another fierce attack on the funeral of a police officer at Nangarhar Province. In the first attack, three militants stormed the hospital and killed over 16 people mostly mothers, babies and hospital staff. This hospital was constructed on the demand of the Taliban. In the second attack, a suicide attacker rushed into a site of the funeral of a local police commander, killing over 25 and wounded 70 people as a result of the explosion. Besides, these two incidents there have dozens of attacks on Afghan Police, Afghan Army and even against the innocent masses and installations. Taliban denies these two attacks whereas; the militant organization Daesh (IS) has accepted the responsibility of these attacks. Despite, the peace agreement between Taliban and US, signed on 29 February 2020, the violence, lawlessness and unrest are still prevailing in almost all provinces of Afghanistan.
The violence and disorder in Afghanistan are indicative of four ground realities. One, there is no central political authority which can really bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, which mean the Government at Kabul is weak and inept. Two of the Afghan security forces numbering over 300,000 are either incapable to handle the law and order situation in the country or else they are unwilling to do it. Three, the intelligence apparatus (the spying network) of Afghanistan is unable to provide timely information to the security forces or it is part of destabilization forces in the country. Four, there are vested interests of the forces within Afghanistan to keep this country in a state of constant bleeding, chaos and political disorder. In all the contingencies, the primary sufferers are people of Afghanistan and the Afghan State.
Analysing the abovementioned factors one by one; the Kabul regime is restricted to Kabul Palace and itself depends on the security provided by US and NATO forces, not even the Afghan Army and police. Besides, there are serious clashes between Ashraf Ghani camp and the Abdullah Abdullah camp, both claiming to be the legitimate ruler of the state. The focus at Kabul is not the state and the masses but the power politics among these two factions, leaving the security of the state at the mercy of weak institutions which themselves depends on directives of the external forces, which use them for their own vested interests.
The institution of Afghan security forces is inherently weak, unable to ensure writ of the state even in the capital Kabul. The primary problem with the security forces of Afghanistan is a weak training base and ethnic division within the forces. The officer class is mostly non-Pashtun and troops are a mix of all ethnicities. The control of the security forces is with officers of former Northern Alliance commanders. Then there are discriminations within the force structure, the majority of Afghan Pashtun are underrepresented and are just subservient. Despite being an organized institution, there is always a fear of the Taliban, among the ranks of Afghan security forces. Taliban are non-state actors and the Afghan Army and police are legitimate security institutions.
The most significant factor, contributing towards incompetence of Afghan security forces is lack of orientation and clearly defined vision. While the primary challenge, they face is domestic disorder and establishment of the writ of the state, the security forces are focusing elsewhere. They need to counter and combat the non-state actors creating violence within the state but, they have been taught by their trainers to concentrate on borders to facilitate terrorist’s infiltration in neighbouring states. Currently, the Afghan state is not facing any external challenge to its security from its neighbours. None of the Afghan neighbours represents an offensive gesture towards it. There are obsolete chances of aggression against Afghanistan by its neighbours.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the real problem in Afghanistan. Currently, this is the most powerful, well trained, well equipped and most influential institution of Afghanistan. However, with all these character traits, the spying network is under strong Indian influence. Indian RAW, the primary trainer of NDS has sown a seed of hatred against Pakistan in the foundation of this spying network. NDS is the focus and working on the agenda of India; the antagonism against Pakistan. Indeed, NDS should have concentrated towards domestic issues of Afghanistan, bridging its existing fault lines and a threat to the security of the state. Unfortunately, NDS got itself embarked against Pakistan and other neighbours.
The best strategy of NDS could have been to create a national harmony and consensus within the country while paving a favourable neighbourhood; but, it has embarked itself in an undesired rivalry and competition with neighbours. Over the years, this strategy has stopped working for the betterment of Afghanistan; nevertheless, it works well for the trainers, directors and advisors of NDS. While NDS with its Indian advisors has created a strong network against the neighbours, it has failed to pay attention to domestic unrest, the unremitting state of chaos and political disorder. Indeed, the focus of NDS is the fulfilment of the agenda of external powers which it implemented through the creation of rivalries all around the Afghan borders.
The most debatable question of Afghan Perils is who want this state to remain in chaos, in a state of constant bleeding, militancy-hit and above all politically fragile and unstable. Indeed, the friends of the Kabul regime, who have been traditionally using this soil and Kabul Palace against their rivals, are the architect of the current disaster in Afghanistan. Compared to the past, today these forces stand more powerful, highly aligned and well-knitted with the most influential international capitals of the world. There are convergences of their long-term interests to keep this land of valiant in a state of flux, turmoil, uncertainty and disarray.
It’s time that loyalists’ forces, the civil society and people with strategic vision within Afghanistan must carry-out a grand re-assessment and re-evaluation of the on-going tragic situation in their motherland. Indeed, since the last four decades, the common Afghan masses are in Peril from cradle to grave and there is a need to remove this danger. For peace and stability in this war-torn state, the external forces responsible for using this soil for their vested interest and power politics must be identified and evicted forever. The friends of these external forces within Afghanistan must be recognized and scolded for their anti-state role against the state and society of this strategically located state of heroic people.
The writer is professor of politics and International Relations at International Islamic University Islamabad