Posts Tagged ‘Jamiat-e-Islami’

Trump Leaves Behind Mess for Afghans to Clean Up

December 23, 2018

Reports of the withdrawal of U.S. troops took Afghans by surprise. And it gives the Taliban exactly what they want.

A U.S. flag flies at a checkpoint in the Deh Bala district in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on July 8. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. flag flies at a checkpoint in the Deh Bala district in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on July 8. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

Fears that U.S. President Donald Trump would decide to reverse course and withdraw troops from Afghanistan are not new. But the latest reports of dramatic plans to bring back 7,000 troops has shocked several sources I have spoken to in the U.S. and Afghan governments. The withdrawal represents nearly half of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, slashing its armed presence down to its lowest levels since 2002. The news broke a day after Trump’s decision to pull forces from Syria and hours after the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis was made public.

It is not necessarily the announcement itself that caught many by surprise, but the timing. Zalmay Khalilzad was appointed as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation in September, raising hopes that a peaceful settlement to America’s longest war was in sight. Khalilzad—a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan under the George W. Bush administration—has shuttled across the region with a relentless energy since then, and a U.S. delegation concluded three days of talks with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. There has been more momentum now for talks than ever before, which Trump’s decision significantly undermines.

The reduction in troop numbers diminishes U.S. leverage over the Taliban in negotiations, given that the latter’s stated priority is the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. While the United States has pummeled Taliban targets with airstrikes, now at an all-time high, this has not yet eroded their control or dented their military capacity. The U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction reported this fall that Afghan government control had fallen to 56 percent of the country’s districts, a record low, and that Afghan National Security Forces casualties had hit a record high. Exact casualty numbers are classified, but the New York Times estimates an average of 50 Afghan soldiers are killed each week. Afghan forces remain deeply reliant on U.S. support to maintain current levels of control and protect cities vulnerable to Taliban capture.

There are many within the Taliban who oppose negotiations and advocate waiting out Washington’s patience and money.

The Taliban refuse to meet directly with the Afghan government; at the recent talks in Abu Dhabi, a delegation from the Afghan government waited in vain at a nearby hotel in the hope of a face-to-face meeting with the Taliban. There are many within the Taliban who oppose negotiations and advocate waiting out Washington’s patience and money. As the old saying goes, the West may have the watches, but the Taliban have the time. The Taliban have little incentive to agree to any deal quickly, particularly now that Trump has clearly demonstrated a desire to get out—regardless of the cost.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan has only gotten worse in recent months, with escalating violence and an increasingly unstable government. The National Unity Government has been paralyzed by infighting and division ahead of presidential elections scheduled for April 2019. Results from parliamentary elections held in October have still not been announced. Given the level of disorganization, chaos, and violence that plagued those elections, presidential elections would be farcical if held as planned in the spring. Yet reports that the United States wanted the Afghan government to postpone elections and create an interim government to negotiate peace were met with defiance and outrage in Kabul.

A withdrawal of U.S. troops may force a reckoning within the Afghan government, which was reportedly caught unawares by the announcement. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s most pressing concern to date has been re-election rather than peace, and his intransigence has increasingly frustrated the United States and its allies in the international community. At a donor conference in Geneva in late November, Ghani announced his peace plan with a five-year timeframe, conveniently tying peace talks to his next presidential term should he win in April. Ghani’s plan is little more than a strategy to tighten his faltering grip on power, disguised as reconciliation.

The Afghan president is facing increasing discontent and open opposition from key political backers, many of whom oppose or have publicly expressed doubt about talks with the Taliban.

The Afghan president is facing increasing discontent and open opposition from key political backers, many of whom oppose or have publicly expressed doubt about talks with the Taliban. This is not surprising. Many of these individuals have significantly benefited from the war and from U.S. support. They would lose considerable influence and power in any settlement with the Taliban. Some may dig in their heels or look for exit plans. Others, particularly within Jamiat-e-Islami or other old mujahideen factions, may accelerate efforts to re-arm their militias in anticipation of a full U.S. withdrawal.

If Trump were to rashly withdraw the remaining U.S. forces without a sound deal, a gradual decline into a new and more vicious phase of civil war is all but guaranteed. In the vacuum created by U.S. disengagement, regional actors such as Pakistan and Russia would throw their support behind Afghan proxies much as they did during the early 1990s. And while Afghanistan is no longer a major safe haven for international terrorist groups, that could quickly change.

It is clear that the current U.S. administration does not have the appetite or endurance to see through a political end to the war that would avoid this. Peace will take years of sustained effort. There is an alternative: handing the process over to a third party. The United States could back the establishment of an independent peace process focused on three core areas: Taliban-U.S. dialogue regarding an American drawdown of troops, intra-Afghan dialogue on a postwar political settlement, and shoring up support from regional actors.

 

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Afghan president faces backlash for ousting Balkh governor

December 20, 2017

 

Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of the Balkh province, speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan January 25, 2017. (REUTERS)

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami (JI) party has accused President Ashraf Ghani of pursuing a “hostile” course by replacing its prominent member, Atta Mohammad Noor, as governor of northern Balkh province.

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The party urged Ghani to reverse his decision.
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JI’s challenge came after the Presidential Palace said on Monday that Noor’s resignation had been offered some time ago and was now accepted. But Noor disputed the account and the validity of Ghani’s decision, setting off a wave of concern among Afghans fearing ethnic divide and increased terror attacks under a fragile government.
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Owing to the gravity of the situation, Salahuddin Rabbani, a JI leader who serves as foreign minister, cut short his official trip to Europe and met the party leadership late Tuesday night.
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In a statement issued in the small hours of Wednesday morning, the JI accused Ghani of pursuing a “hostile” course by removing Noor. It urged Ghani to reverse the decision and not to misuse the presence of the international community, apparently hinting at the presence of US-led troops in Afghanistan.
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The statement said JI considered itself and its allies the winners of the 2014 elections but agreed to share power with Ghani in a US-brokered National Unity Government (NUG) owing to the sensitivity of the situation at that time, mainly caused by rigged polls, and to prevent the country from further crises.
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The JI accused Ghani of not complying with the controversial deal and said he cannot sack Noor without accepting the party’s conditions, which include its involvement in domestic and international issues and inclusion in the composition of the Cabinet.
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The party said it wants stability in Afghanistan but it would keep all its options open in case Ghani did not retract his decision.
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“If the palace, through its monopoliztic measure, by misusing the presence of the international community (US troops), does not review its decision which is in contradiction of the NUG agreement … the JI is bound to exercise any option for defending the set and legitimate right of the Afghan people,” the statement said.
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It gave no further details, but said the palace will be responsible for any “unpleasant outcome.”
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Palace officials said Mohammed Dawood is now the government’s appointed governor of Balkh, where Noor ruled for almost the entire period since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban from power. Dawood has not officially assumed office yet.
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Noor is the latest factional regional strongman to lose his office in Ghani’s divided administration.
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Earlier this year, after months of publicly criticizing Ghani for alleged lack of reforms, nepotism, and sidelining the JI, Noor forged an alliance with Ghani’s first Vice President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and another northern regional leader who defected from Ghani along with a senior government official.
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Critics say Noor built his own empire including a television network and vast businesses in the north on custom revenues, but his supporters point out the amount of reconstruction and security he has brought about in the province, which is seen as a model in Afghanistan while much of the rest of the country faces routine fighting and poor economy.
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Lawmakers on Wednesday urged both the government and the JI to find a political settlement for what some consider a new chapter of crisis for Afghanistan while the country faces escalated attacks by the Taliban and affiliates of Daesh, particularly in some northern areas, despite the presence of coalition troops for 16 years.
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In the face of rising tension, some military and civil servants in Balkh have vowed to stand behind Noor while his allies in the JI — which has long dominated Afghanistan’s politics and economy — threatened a march on Kabul.
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