Showing posts tagged as "Afghanistan"

Showing posts tagged Afghanistan

13 May

Next Gen Taliban

Senior Analyst Graeme Smith looks at the ways the Taliban are changing as foreign troops prepare to leave the country.

The Economy

Graeme Smith, Senior Analyst for Afghanistan, discusses the economic challenges Afghanistan faces as the last foreign troops prepare to leave.

The Donors

Graeme Smith, Senior Analyst for Afghanistan, discusses how a drop-off in foreign aid will affect Afghanistan’s security.

The Balance Sheet

As the last foreign troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, Senior Analyst Graeme Smith evaluates the security situation on the ground.

12 May
Reduced to eating grass, Afghanistan’s forces are in dire need of our help | Louise Arbour and Graeme Smith 
Louise Arbour is the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Graeme Smith is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.
When Canadian troops were surrounded by insurgents in a desolate part of southern Afghanistan known as Ghorak district in 2007, trapped in the stony desert under a relentless sun, their lives depended on supplies dropped by parachute from transport planes.
Today the situation is even more desperate in Ghorak. The war has grown in ferocity since the departure of Canadian combat troops in 2011. American helicopters stopped bringing medical relief last year. Shipments of food and bullets are no longer drifting out of the sky from the hatches of Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
Afghan forces are holding the district by themselves, so far, but Taliban roadblocks are causing food shortages. Ghorak’s defenders recently started to eat boiled grass.
It’s the same story in many other rural areas: Afghan police and soldiers are keeping the insurgency at bay, but they need more support from the international community.
That’s the conclusion of International Crisis Group’s new report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition. Based on case studies of four provinces – Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar – it analyzes the directions of the conflict since the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally took responsibility for security from NATO in mid-2013.
Insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and a few areas have even experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops.
Still, the overall trend as foreign troops withdraw is escalating insurgent attacks, with a continued rise in violence expected in 2014 and 2015.
Kandahar, the focus of Canada’s mission, remained the country’s most dangerous province in 2013. The worsening trend continued into 2014, with 20 per cent more attacks in the province during the first three months of the year as compared with the same period 12 months earlier, according to one Western analysis.
The news is not entirely bad from Kandahar: Afghan security forces have firm control of the provincial capital and the urban neighbourhoods are enjoying declines in violence for the first time in a decade.
Still, across the country, the job of fighting insurgents weighs more heavily than ever on Afghanistan’s security forces. In 2013, for the first time, the insurgents inflicted almost as many casualties on government forces as they suffered themselves – which is among several indicators that in some places the sides are nearly matched in strength.
Canada’s own troops returned home safely this spring. Their bravery in Afghanistan was commemorated on May 9 with a parade, two minutes of silence, and other honours. The Canadian government is encouraging schoolchildren to make dog tags from laminated cardboard to remember the 158 Canadian soldiers killed in the conflict.
Perhaps the best way, though, for Canada and other donors to respect the sacrifices of their soldiers would be to help the Afghan government survive after their departure.
Current plans for international support of the ANSF are insufficient. Donors must go beyond the annual commitment of $3.6-billion (U.S.) made at the Chicago 2012 summit and provide funding for maintenance of an ANSF personnel roster approximately equal to its current size, until stability improves in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government also needs international assistance with logistics, air support, intelligence and other technical aspects of security operations sometimes known as “enablers.” There is, for example, a pressing need for more helicopters and armoured vehicles. Currently, Afghan police and soldiers, far from urban centres, die of minor injuries while they wait for scarce helicopters or armoured convoys to transfer them to medical facilities.
Some of the responsibility for the Afghan government’s future belongs to the new leadership in Kabul. Afghanistan will get a freshly elected president this summer, and he must sign the necessary agreements to keep a small number of American and other NATO forces in the country. The Afghan government must also take urgent steps to reduce casualties among Afghan forces, and strengthen anti-corruption measures to ensure that security personnel receive salaries, ammunition, fuel and other basic requirements.
But the fledgling Afghan state does not have the ability to pay for its own security forces, and countries such as Canada have an obligation to continue funding the unfinished war.
Such immediate action on military issues will buy time for Afghanistan and its donors to resolve issues that will be decisive for the country’s long-term stability, including ethnic and social grievances, political inclusiveness, economic concerns, unemployment and weak rule of law.
Extensive work remains to be done on strengthening the rule of law and shoring up the state’s political legitimacy. Eventually, a post-election, post-transition government would have better prospects for reviving peace talks. The insurgents, for their part, may also be willing to talk seriously after testing the state’s military strength – once international forces have left – and finding it resolute.
That will not happen while the Taliban continue to believe they are winning, which is why remote places such as Ghorak still have the same political significance they held when Canadians were battling to defend them.
“The Taliban want to capture all of Afghanistan,” a former district official told us. “But they’re starting with small places like Ghorak.”
Canada can still make a big difference in those small places, which will play a significant role in the country our troops are leaving behind.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The Globe and Mail)
Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

Reduced to eating grass, Afghanistan’s forces are in dire need of our help | Louise Arbour and Graeme Smith 

Louise Arbour is the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Graeme Smith is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

When Canadian troops were surrounded by insurgents in a desolate part of southern Afghanistan known as Ghorak district in 2007, trapped in the stony desert under a relentless sun, their lives depended on supplies dropped by parachute from transport planes.

Today the situation is even more desperate in Ghorak. The war has grown in ferocity since the departure of Canadian combat troops in 2011. American helicopters stopped bringing medical relief last year. Shipments of food and bullets are no longer drifting out of the sky from the hatches of Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft.

Afghan forces are holding the district by themselves, so far, but Taliban roadblocks are causing food shortages. Ghorak’s defenders recently started to eat boiled grass.

It’s the same story in many other rural areas: Afghan police and soldiers are keeping the insurgency at bay, but they need more support from the international community.

That’s the conclusion of International Crisis Group’s new report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition. Based on case studies of four provinces – Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar – it analyzes the directions of the conflict since the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally took responsibility for security from NATO in mid-2013.

Insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and a few areas have even experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops.

Still, the overall trend as foreign troops withdraw is escalating insurgent attacks, with a continued rise in violence expected in 2014 and 2015.

Kandahar, the focus of Canada’s mission, remained the country’s most dangerous province in 2013. The worsening trend continued into 2014, with 20 per cent more attacks in the province during the first three months of the year as compared with the same period 12 months earlier, according to one Western analysis.

The news is not entirely bad from Kandahar: Afghan security forces have firm control of the provincial capital and the urban neighbourhoods are enjoying declines in violence for the first time in a decade.

Still, across the country, the job of fighting insurgents weighs more heavily than ever on Afghanistan’s security forces. In 2013, for the first time, the insurgents inflicted almost as many casualties on government forces as they suffered themselves – which is among several indicators that in some places the sides are nearly matched in strength.

Canada’s own troops returned home safely this spring. Their bravery in Afghanistan was commemorated on May 9 with a parade, two minutes of silence, and other honours. The Canadian government is encouraging schoolchildren to make dog tags from laminated cardboard to remember the 158 Canadian soldiers killed in the conflict.

Perhaps the best way, though, for Canada and other donors to respect the sacrifices of their soldiers would be to help the Afghan government survive after their departure.

Current plans for international support of the ANSF are insufficient. Donors must go beyond the annual commitment of $3.6-billion (U.S.) made at the Chicago 2012 summit and provide funding for maintenance of an ANSF personnel roster approximately equal to its current size, until stability improves in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government also needs international assistance with logistics, air support, intelligence and other technical aspects of security operations sometimes known as “enablers.” There is, for example, a pressing need for more helicopters and armoured vehicles. Currently, Afghan police and soldiers, far from urban centres, die of minor injuries while they wait for scarce helicopters or armoured convoys to transfer them to medical facilities.

Some of the responsibility for the Afghan government’s future belongs to the new leadership in Kabul. Afghanistan will get a freshly elected president this summer, and he must sign the necessary agreements to keep a small number of American and other NATO forces in the country. The Afghan government must also take urgent steps to reduce casualties among Afghan forces, and strengthen anti-corruption measures to ensure that security personnel receive salaries, ammunition, fuel and other basic requirements.

But the fledgling Afghan state does not have the ability to pay for its own security forces, and countries such as Canada have an obligation to continue funding the unfinished war.

Such immediate action on military issues will buy time for Afghanistan and its donors to resolve issues that will be decisive for the country’s long-term stability, including ethnic and social grievances, political inclusiveness, economic concerns, unemployment and weak rule of law.

Extensive work remains to be done on strengthening the rule of law and shoring up the state’s political legitimacy. Eventually, a post-election, post-transition government would have better prospects for reviving peace talks. The insurgents, for their part, may also be willing to talk seriously after testing the state’s military strength – once international forces have left – and finding it resolute.

That will not happen while the Taliban continue to believe they are winning, which is why remote places such as Ghorak still have the same political significance they held when Canadians were battling to defend them.

“The Taliban want to capture all of Afghanistan,” a former district official told us. “But they’re starting with small places like Ghorak.”

Canada can still make a big difference in those small places, which will play a significant role in the country our troops are leaving behind.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The Globe and Mail)

Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

7 May

Ever wonder what it’s like to work for Crisis Group?

In this video, travel with Crisis Group analysts as they investigate conflicts in the field and offer creative solutions.

25 Apr
"“What I expect is that violence will keep rising in 2014 and 2015, and Kabul will not escape that trend. “I expect Kabul will remain firmly in the hands of the government, but I think all the [non-governmental organizations] and internationals here are going to have to think long and hard about their exposure.”"

—Graeme Smith, Senior Afghanistan Analyst for the International Crisis Group, Washington Post

7 Apr
Apathy and Fear of Taliban Combine to Keep Rural Voters Away From the Polls | Azam Ahmed
While polling centers across Kabul and other Afghan cities were celebrating record turnouts on Saturday, Tahir Khan, a tribal leader in rural Nangarhar Province, experienced a very different Election Day.
“It was a dead zone,” he said, referring to the eastern province’s Shinwar district. “All the polling centers were closed, and people hardly left their homes.”
The truth in Shinwar, and in some other rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency is strongest, is that the Taliban did not have to pick up their rifles to disrupt the vote on Saturday.
In some districts that were still nominally open for polling, residents were too frightened about the Taliban’s threat to punish voters, too dubious about the security forces’ ability to protect them or too disenchanted with the national government in general to turn out to vote.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: Helmand PRT, Lashkar Gah/flickr

Apathy and Fear of Taliban Combine to Keep Rural Voters Away From the Polls | Azam Ahmed

While polling centers across Kabul and other Afghan cities were celebrating record turnouts on Saturday, Tahir Khan, a tribal leader in rural Nangarhar Province, experienced a very different Election Day.

“It was a dead zone,” he said, referring to the eastern province’s Shinwar district. “All the polling centers were closed, and people hardly left their homes.”

The truth in Shinwar, and in some other rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency is strongest, is that the Taliban did not have to pick up their rifles to disrupt the vote on Saturday.

In some districts that were still nominally open for polling, residents were too frightened about the Taliban’s threat to punish voters, too dubious about the security forces’ ability to protect them or too disenchanted with the national government in general to turn out to vote.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: Helmand PRT, Lashkar Gah/flickr

31 Mar
Hamid Karzai’s tangled legacy: inept failure or anti-Taliban hero? | Jason Burke
Amid the dust and traffic of today’s Kabul, three things remain almost as they were a decade or so ago. In winter, and when the wind clears the smog that is a side-effect of years of economic boom, the blue sky above the snowcapped peaks that ring the city is as impressive as ever. Then there is the Arg, the sprawling palace at the city’s centre and the apparently calm eye of a turbulent storm of a country. The complex is home to the third element that has remained constant since the end of the Taliban’s grim regime in 2001: Hamid Karzai, now in his 13th year of power.
However, Karzai, 56, will soon be gone. He is constitutionally barred from contesting next weekend’s elections and soon this theatrical, mercurial, complex man will have to find a new occupation. Many, particularly in Washington, will be relieved.
Once, the prospect of Karzai losing power would have provoked a different reaction. Back in the chaotic days of late 2001, as the Taliban regime crumbled under the US assault launched in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Karzai was seen as a the man of the hour. He was the head of a major tribe, of Pashtun ethnicity like the apparently defeated Taliban and around 40% of his compatriots, but moderate, educated and pro-western. Officials in Washington, Kabul and London enthused about their new-found Afghan hero. Few are as gushing now. If, as three western ambassadors to Afghanistan told me during their respective terms in the Afghan capital, the relationship between US policymakers and Karzai was “like a marriage, with its ups and downs” this union has ended in definitive, and acrimonious, divorce.
FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)
Photo:  U.S Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr

Hamid Karzai’s tangled legacy: inept failure or anti-Taliban hero? | Jason Burke

Amid the dust and traffic of today’s Kabul, three things remain almost as they were a decade or so ago. In winter, and when the wind clears the smog that is a side-effect of years of economic boom, the blue sky above the snowcapped peaks that ring the city is as impressive as ever. Then there is the Arg, the sprawling palace at the city’s centre and the apparently calm eye of a turbulent storm of a country. The complex is home to the third element that has remained constant since the end of the Taliban’s grim regime in 2001: Hamid Karzai, now in his 13th year of power.

However, Karzai, 56, will soon be gone. He is constitutionally barred from contesting next weekend’s elections and soon this theatrical, mercurial, complex man will have to find a new occupation. Many, particularly in Washington, will be relieved.

Once, the prospect of Karzai losing power would have provoked a different reaction. Back in the chaotic days of late 2001, as the Taliban regime crumbled under the US assault launched in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Karzai was seen as a the man of the hour. He was the head of a major tribe, of Pashtun ethnicity like the apparently defeated Taliban and around 40% of his compatriots, but moderate, educated and pro-western. Officials in Washington, Kabul and London enthused about their new-found Afghan hero. Few are as gushing now. If, as three western ambassadors to Afghanistan told me during their respective terms in the Afghan capital, the relationship between US policymakers and Karzai was “like a marriage, with its ups and downs” this union has ended in definitive, and acrimonious, divorce.

FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)

Photo:  U.S Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/flickr

21 Mar
Kabul Taliban Hotel Attack Will Hurt Democratic Process in Afghanistan: Analyst | Sasha Nagy
The brazen attack by Taliban fighters at a Kabul hotel Thursday that killed two Canadian aid workers could have a detrimental effect on the coming general elections, a prominent Canadian security analyst said Friday.
Roshan Thomas, a Vancouver woman who started a school in Kabul, has been identified as one of the Canadians killed in the attack.

Graeme Smith, an award-winning former journalist with the Globe and Mail who is in Kabul working with the International Crisis Group, said the attacks will make it difficult for international election observers to stay in Kabul and conduct first-hand inspections of polling sites. One of the of the victims, he said, worked as an election observer from the National Democratic Institute.
FULL ARTICLE (The Huffington Post Canada)
Photo: US Army/Flickr

Kabul Taliban Hotel Attack Will Hurt Democratic Process in Afghanistan: Analyst | Sasha Nagy

The brazen attack by Taliban fighters at a Kabul hotel Thursday that killed two Canadian aid workers could have a detrimental effect on the coming general elections, a prominent Canadian security analyst said Friday.

Roshan Thomas, a Vancouver woman who started a school in Kabul, has been identified as one of the Canadians killed in the attack.

Graeme Smith, an award-winning former journalist with the Globe and Mail who is in Kabul working with the International Crisis Group, said the attacks will make it difficult for international election observers to stay in Kabul and conduct first-hand inspections of polling sites. One of the of the victims, he said, worked as an election observer from the National Democratic Institute.

FULL ARTICLE (The Huffington Post Canada)

Photo: US Army/Flickr