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Afghanistan With No Defence Strategy

By Dr Florance Ebrahimi

In a major assault on the Afghan security forces Taliban killed, wounded or kidnapped at least 33 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) in Jurm district of north-eastern Badakhshan province. Northern Province of Badakhshan has been relatively peaceful as compared to other unstable and war torn areas of the country. So this attack on Afghan army was shocking to our countrymen. The sudden eruption of violence in northern Badakhshan Province is an early indication of what could lie ahead for the Afghan military, which has lost not only soldiers but also armoured vehicles and weapons to the insurgents in the last week of fighting. For years, Badakhshan was considered one of the safest and most peaceful parts of Afghanistan. But it has recently emerged as an unexpected locus of the war. There may be several reasons for that, including the presence of lapis lazuli mines that have at times been a focal point of fighting. The remote province’s mountainous terrain and limited road network have made it difficult for the Afghan military to respond quickly to Taliban attacks. But it should be an eye opener for our sleeping government which is dreaming to have a peace talks with the Taliban and making them concessions. On the other hand insurgents are taking their fight to the new and peaceful areas.

 

Afghan government is failing on every battle fronts being it north or south. The military’s operation in northern Helmand, called Zulfiqar, has been a struggle for Afghan forces for more than two months. In the face of public statements proclaiming the mission a success, locals tell stories of soldiers refusing to fight or bulldozing homes. Government forces, particularly the police, have suffered heavy casualties. Our policy makers even don’t understand one simple rule of negotiations that for negotiating on your terms you have to be in strong position. And day by day Afghan government position in the battleground is weakened by the Taliban. Since 2002, the United States has poured at least $65 billion into building up, training and equipping Afghan National Security Forces so they could stand up against insurgents once U.S. soldiers and their allies returned home. However, more than a decade later, that plan, along with the Afghan National Security Forces, seems to be slowly falling apart. Mr Ghani’s meetings with his US counterpart were part of a five-day visit to the US but he has returned with vanished hope. He could not satisfy the Obama administration. As a result of it Mr Ghani only got $800 million as a shallow tip, which is not sufficient to feed his country’s army.

 

Our leaders should first pay attention towards the weakness of the Afghan security forces and try to rectify them as soon as possible. Let’s have a look towards major problems faced by our forces the number of Afghan security forces fell sharply in 2014 and 2015 due to the high rate of desertion. Attrition continues to be a major challenge for the Afghan army.  Ineffective logistics, close air support and better leadership are other challenges faced by the forces. The condition of Air Force is even worst. The fledgling Afghan Air Force is scrambling to provide even basic support. Afghanistan’s armed forces are so short of combat-ready aircraft that, late last year, they began fitting machine guns and rockets to Russian-made Mi-17 transport helicopters, dubbed “flying tractors”, to bolster their air power. Currently NATO is training and advising some 390 Afghan pilots, most with no tactical combat experience, and a limited number of planes and helicopters have been promised to bolster an air force of around 140 aircraft, mostly transport helicopters. Most of the 20 Italian-made G222 transport planes the U.S. bought for $486 million were sold for scrap metal after being grounded because Afghans could not maintain them. Untested younger pilots will have to learn quickly how to coordinate with ground troops, fly in formation, discern enemy fighters from Afghan forces and avoid killing civilians.

 

The failure by President Ashraf Ghani’s administration to name a permanent defence minister has created turmoil among the Afghan military’s leadership. That, combined with the shrinking role of U.S. and coalition forces in the country, has caused serious capability gaps in the government’s security forces that Taliban and other groups will use to their advantage.  Our leaders should pay more attention towards building Afghan security forces more strong and combat ready so, that they can defend the country and the people. Rather than living like-Alice in wonderland in false hope of peace with the Taliban who are bleeding us on everyday basis. Government should deal the Taliban mess with the iron wrist rather pleading for peace and reconciliation.

 

(Author is an Afghan doctor currently living in Sydney, Australia can be reached at drfloafghan@gmail.com)