A "stalemate" in Afghanistan

Wednesday, 2017-04-26 15:06:58
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Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (3rd left) prays for the victims of April 21's attack on an army headquarters during his visits in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan April 22, 2017.
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NDO – The Taliban's recent deadly raid on April 21 that killed more than 140 Afghan government soldiers and injured many others has created a security shock in the host country and for foreign troops stationed there. Once again, the alarm of security instability has been raised, warning that the fight against terrorists and extremists in the South Asian country will be further prolonged and complicated.

The military base in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province in north Afghanistan was left in mourning after Taliban gunmen disguised in Afghan army uniforms attacked soldiers that were having dinner and leaving a mosque after Friday prayers. Since July 2016, this has been the deadliest attack of its kind by Taliban fighters on Afghanistan and its Western allies during the war against terrorism.

President Ashraf Ghani declared a national day of mourning to commemorate victims of the raid, and accepted the resignation of Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim. The Taliban announced that the attack on the base was retribution for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan.

After the attack, US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Afghanistan to hold discussions with the Afghan leaders and officials on the war situation and bilateral cooperation to counter escalating instability in the country.

The rise of the Taliban has shown that the anti-terrorism war launched in Afghanistan in 2001 by the US has only ended on paper. It is worth mentioning that over the past two years, Washington has repeatedly changed its strategy to cope with the instable situation in Afghanistan. While revising new strategies in Afghanistan, US officials have reassured Kabul that the US is committed to supporting the country towards peace, prosperity and security and confirmed that sponsorship will be maintained under the administration new President Donald Trump.

According to US estimates, the Afghan army now controls almost 60% of its territory; the Taliban occupies 10% and the remaining 30% makes up a battlefield between government forces and insurgents. Observers said that the recent attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, which had been considered to be a safe place in Afghanistan along with the capital of Kabul, has left many questioning the capacity of the Afghan government and its foreign supporters in the war against the Taliban, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and other insurgent groups in the South Asian country.

International coalition forces led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have been stationed in Afghanistan, comprising of around 13,300 soldiers, including 8,400 US soldiers, with a major task of supporting the host country in the fight against Taliban, terrorists and extremists. However, the outcomes of the fight cannot be evaluated based on statistics and numbers.

It is said that in recent times, the US has paid more attention to the Syrian civil war and the increasing tension on the Korean peninsula than the Afghan war, which has contributed to security flaws in the country and increased the number of deaths and injuries. In 2016, air attacks in Afghanistan caused a record of civilian casualties with 250 deaths and 340 people injured, almost twice as high as in 2015. Eight years since the United Nations released its annual report, conflict in the South Asian nation has claimed the lives of more than 24,840 civilians, and injured 45,347 others.

General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, emphasised that the current situation in Afghanistan is a stalemate, identifying the most serious problems including insecurity, corruption, unsustainability, drugs, and management.

In the continuing cycle of increased violence, sluggish economic growth and social instability, it is estimated that at least 9.3 million Afghan people, accounting for approximately 30% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017, an increase of 13% over last year. Escalating violence has not only claimed innocent lives, but has also deepened the division among ethnic ethnic groups and social communities in the country, making its people sink even deeper into devastation.