Catch up on the world’s conflicts in this month’s CrisisWatch map.
Showing posts tagged as "Afghanistan"
Showing posts tagged Afghanistan
Grabbing the Wolf’s Tail | Graeme Smith
“The Taliban are still here,” a pharmacist who sells medicine to remote villages in the southeast told me last month in this shabby frontier town. “People are anxious about 2014 because the troops are leaving.”
After his customers started to understand recently that the United States and its allies will pull out most of their forces this year, he said, his sales of medication for anxiety, depression and insomnia increased 30-fold. Fear of a Taliban resurgence is so widespread that it is hurting property prices and the value of Afghanistan’s currency, scaring investors away and impelling Afghans to seek foreign asylum. Worries about the year ahead are a kind of pathology here.
FULL COMMENTARY (New York Times)
Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr
Prospects for Afghanistan in 2014:
Afghan Forces Cannot Go it Alone | Graeme Smith
The biggest misconception about the Afghan war is that the conflict is ending. President Barack Obama encouraged this view in his 2013 State of the Union address, declaring: “By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.” He repeated a similar claim on Veterans Day. If the president was reading the Pentagon’s reports to Congress, it’s easy to see how he got the wrong idea. The U.S. military’s assessment is that violence has fallen and “Afghan security forces are now successfully providing security for their own people.”
Such rhetoric paves the way for a U.S. exit, but it doesn’t help Afghans. If local forces were successfully securing their people, we would not be seeing more civilian deaths. In fact, the United Nations reports that civilian casualties rose 16 percent in the first eight months of 2013.
Fierce battles this year also saw local security forces endure record casualties. Across the country, the UN found a rise in violence—up 11 percent this summer. Other analyses by Western experts show even greater escalation.
This reality on the ground refutes the Pentagon’s picture of a war that is cooling down. I’ve been studying transitional areas for the International Crisis Group as we prepare a report on the insurgency, and have found that security worsened in many places as foreign troops pulled back. The situation has calmed in some locations, but local elders warn that insurgents still control large parts of the countryside and may be waiting for a better time to attack.
Why does this matter? President Hamid Karzai must sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States. The Afghan government may not have the firepower to stand without a deal in the short term. Also, the United States and other NATO countries need to stay engaged on security issues after 2014. Afghan forces have a fighting chance, but they need significant help—helicopters, logistics, and many other kinds of assistance—to keep the insurgents at bay.
Photo: UK Ministry of Defense/ Flickr
Afghan security agreement needed | Mark Schneider
Kabul is waiting for President Hamid Karzai’s promised Loya Jirga, where the country’s political elite would examine whether to approve the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) authorizing a U.S. military presence after the 2014 transition. Most are betting that Karzai will soon call the country’s elders together to bless the agreement. Some fear his message will be to kill it.
Just weeks ago, Secretary of State John Kerry and Karzai stood before the press corps in Kabul promising that the long-discussed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was a done deal, save a few tiny details. The photo-op belied the reality that Kabul is not quite ready to commit to a deal that would exempt U.S. soldiers from prosecution in Afghan courts. Within hours, Karzai backpedalled, stating that a Loya Jirga was required before the agreement could be signed.
Support for the agreement is not universal in Kabul or in Washington. For some in D.C., including liberals within President Obama’s own party, the preference is to get all U.S. military out of Afghanistan immediately. For some in Karzai’s camp, giving U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Afghanistan is unacceptable.
Both camps should remember Iraq. Failure to reach a similar status of forces agreement resulted in a departure of virtually all U.S. forces, and the country has endured rising sectarian violence ever since. Afghanistan has the added threat of a still dangerous insurgency with al Qaeda links and sanctuary in Pakistan.
The BSA guarantees critical U.S. and international military support post 2014. So why is Kabul hedging? When I visited weeks ago, almost everyone I spoke with agreed it was needed – from warlords, to human rights workers, politicians, police, teachers and doctors. They wanted it approved and signed sooner rather than later because they realized that without foreign troops, their country’s security would be at risk.
But after a year of negotiations, Karzai seems stuck on the same two questions: What security guarantees will the U.S. offer if Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to the Taliban, and why shouldn’t U. S. soldiers be tried in Afghanistan if they commit crimes there?
Karzai says he has grounds for his hesitation. Just weeks ago, he was incensed when U.S. troops dragged a Pakistani Taliban leader to Bagram Airfield for questioning after the Afghans reportedly convinced him to engage in peace talks. He also pointed to U.S. and NATO air strikes that Kabul claimed violated past accords and caused more civilian casualties.
Karzai still believes the U.S. needs him more than he or Afghanistan needs the U.S. He thinks the U.S. determination to degrade “core” al Qaeda and deny it a friendly government in Kabul remain a paramount U.S. interest—and he may be right—but not without a BSA.
What Kabul may not recognize is that, without a deal, Washington political forces continue to build against sending more money and troops to Afghanistan. Some in D.C. already argue that al Qaeda is so weak that no further expenditures of lives or treasure are justified.
Yet, in both Kabul and Washington, many doubt that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be ready to contain the Taliban without U.S. and NATO partners a year from now. Since January, the Taliban has upped the tempo of attacks against Afghan civilian and military targets. A BSA would force the Taliban to decide whether to keep fighting or accept a negotiated settlement conditioned on the redlines of ending the armed struggle, severing links to al-Qaeda and respecting the core of the Afghan constitution, including its protection for individual and women’s rights.
The BSA also has strategic and political implications. An agreement would give the political class some security that the next government can actually govern despite the ongoing insurgency, slow the rush of local capital to the Gulf and other “safer” investments, and encourage ethnic powerbrokers to support a national structure rather than their own regional fiefdoms. It would also incentivize the U.S., World Bank and others to fulfill their commitments of aid dollars, technical help and diplomatic presence.
Finally, a BSA would enable President Obama to avoid the charge that the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan a second time. The prospect of Taliban and al Qaeda forces tightening their grip on regional centers would leave U.S. leaders with unpalatable options: unauthorized drone strikes and Special Forces raids. The sooner both sides sign on the dotted line, the better for everyone.
FULL ARTICLE (The Hill)
Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Flickr
Don’t sacrifice Afghan women for a deal with the Taliban | Samina Ahmed
In November 2001, on the eve of the Taliban’s ouster, former first lady Laura Bush tied the US-led intervention to the plight of Afghan women. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women, she said. Ten years later, in July 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed that any “potential for peace will be subverted if women and ethnic minorities are marginalized or silenced.”
Yet Afghan women are increasingly concerned that, as the withdrawal of foreign troops nears, they will be sacrificed at the twin altars of international indifference and Afghan political expediency. They have reason to be concerned. Nonetheless, the gains they have made in the last 12 years can and should be secured with the help of the international community.
FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)
What The ‘Zero Option’ Would Look Like In Afghanistan | Fred Bezhan
What if the United States pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan?
The general assumption is that as Washington and Kabul work to hammer out a long-term security agreement, a way will be found to maintain a U.S. troop presence after 2014.
The two sides have reached a preliminary agreement on a deal. But a key U.S. demand — that its troops be granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan law and be tried only in the United States — remains a major sticking point.
FULL ARTICLE (RFE/RL)
Photo: U.S. Army/Flickr
Day 2 of the Global Briefing has come to an end. We began with an intense discussion on Syria and wrapped up with parallel sessions on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Sudan.
Fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan | Louise Arbour
On April 22, 2013, complying with the verdict of his village’s mullahs, a father publicly executed his daughter in Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Baghdis. The young mother’s alleged crime: running away with a male cousin while her husband was in Iran. This case, among many others, shows that the Afghan state has failed to protect women from violence. More than twelve years after the Taliban’s ouster, despite international support and the hard work of human rights’ activists, equal protection and equal benefit of the law are notable by their absence for the vast majority of Afghan women. With the international forces rushing to the exits, Kabul’s ability and willingness to protect women could further decline.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)
Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/Canada en Afghanistan /Flickr
An Uncertain Future | Louise Arbour
As Western troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghan security forces’ ability to contain the Taliban insurgency relies on a reasonable degree of political stability in Kabul, which next year’s presidential elections could jeopardize. In fact, Afghanistan’s political transition could prove as challenging as the military one.
Presidential contenders have been registering with the election commission for several weeks now. There was talk that Afghan elites might arrive at a consensus and back a single presidential ticket, which would sweep the elections and perhaps take some of the sting from the campaign. The sheer number of presidential candidates (27), however – and the fact that different tickets represent different factions – suggests this has not happened, though horse-trading before the vote may well reduce the field.
FULL ARTICLE (The Mark News)
Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr