Showing posts tagged as "afghanistan"

Showing posts tagged afghanistan

30 Jul
Taliban ‘gaining ground’ as Afghan audit drags on | Gabriel Domínguez and Srinivas Mazumdaru
The election audit comes at a critical time for Afghanistan as the international community winds down its combat mission and foreign aid dwindles. The successful completion of the electoral process, which has been marred by allegations of widespread fraud between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, is therefore key to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in the conflict-ridden country. However, attacks by the Taliban have intensified recently, with dozens of assaults reported last weekend alone.
Moreover, on July 29, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s powerful cousin, a close ally of presidential candidate Ghani, was killed in a suicide bomb attack, deepening political strains. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
In a DW interview, Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), says there is no strong connection, so far, between the electoral crisis in Afghanistan and the rising number of insurgent attacks, but adds that the Taliban’s territorial gains are of symbolic importance as they show the militants’ ability to confront Afghan forces in face-to-face battle.
FULL INTERVIEW (Deutsche Welle)
Photo: U.S. Army/ flickr

Taliban ‘gaining ground’ as Afghan audit drags on | Gabriel Domínguez and Srinivas Mazumdaru

The election audit comes at a critical time for Afghanistan as the international community winds down its combat mission and foreign aid dwindles. The successful completion of the electoral process, which has been marred by allegations of widespread fraud between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, is therefore key to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in the conflict-ridden country. However, attacks by the Taliban have intensified recently, with dozens of assaults reported last weekend alone.

Moreover, on July 29, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s powerful cousin, a close ally of presidential candidate Ghani, was killed in a suicide bomb attack, deepening political strains. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

In a DW interview, Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), says there is no strong connection, so far, between the electoral crisis in Afghanistan and the rising number of insurgent attacks, but adds that the Taliban’s territorial gains are of symbolic importance as they show the militants’ ability to confront Afghan forces in face-to-face battle.

FULL INTERVIEW (Deutsche Welle)

Photo: U.S. Army/ flickr

8 Jul
Ghani’s win is ‘only a partial victory’ | Gabriel Dominguez
Aghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced on Monday, July 7, that former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai won the June 14 presidential election runoff poll with 56.4 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. His rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, came second with 43.5 percent of the vote. The turnout was reportedly more than eight million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters, much higher than expected.
The numbers and outcome might still change, however, when final numbers come out on July 22. The runoff vote had been widely regarded as a major step in the country’s democratic transition, as it comes at a critical time in the country as foreign troops prepare to leave in the coming months. But the vote has been marred by allegations of massive fraud.
In a DW interview, Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group, says any significant delay in the electoral calendar will it make it harder for the US and NATO to reach a deal to keep troops in the country after the end of the year. It remains unclear whether both the candidates will accept the final election results.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

Ghani’s win is ‘only a partial victory’ | Gabriel Dominguez

Aghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced on Monday, July 7, that former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai won the June 14 presidential election runoff poll with 56.4 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. His rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, came second with 43.5 percent of the vote. The turnout was reportedly more than eight million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters, much higher than expected.

The numbers and outcome might still change, however, when final numbers come out on July 22. The runoff vote had been widely regarded as a major step in the country’s democratic transition, as it comes at a critical time in the country as foreign troops prepare to leave in the coming months. But the vote has been marred by allegations of massive fraud.

In a DW interview, Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group, says any significant delay in the electoral calendar will it make it harder for the US and NATO to reach a deal to keep troops in the country after the end of the year. It remains unclear whether both the candidates will accept the final election results.

FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)

Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

7 Jul
Afghan Election Results Due Today as Abdullah Seeking Delay | Eltaf Najafizada
Afghan election authorities are due to unveil preliminary results of a presidential runoff after a five-day delay as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai rejected a coalition with his main rival, a move that may spark protests.
Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting in April, is boycotting the results after accusing the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan of stuffing ballot boxes in favor of Ghani, a former World Bank economist. His camp wants today’s announcement delayed again.
“We will not accept the preliminary results until clean votes are separated from fraudulent votes,” Abdullah told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “The international community wants a government based on legitimate votes.”
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/flickr

Afghan Election Results Due Today as Abdullah Seeking Delay | Eltaf Najafizada

Afghan election authorities are due to unveil preliminary results of a presidential runoff after a five-day delay as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai rejected a coalition with his main rival, a move that may spark protests.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting in April, is boycotting the results after accusing the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan of stuffing ballot boxes in favor of Ghani, a former World Bank economist. His camp wants today’s announcement delayed again.

“We will not accept the preliminary results until clean votes are separated from fraudulent votes,” Abdullah told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “The international community wants a government based on legitimate votes.”

FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/flickr

4 Jun
What next for Afghanistan? | Graeme Smith
“To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law,” the International Crisis Group noted in a report last month.
But how likely is it that Afghanistan will receive the support it needs? And what can we expect next? Graeme Smith, the author of the report and a senior analyst with ICG,  answers readers’ questions.
How much success did NATO forces actually have? Was it more a case of displacing insurgents from one area to another, or was there genuine progress?
NATO can take credit for many successes in Afghanistan. Unfortunately there was also a clear failure to bring security, which threatens every other aspect of the mission. NATO assumed leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2003, and by every measure the country is now more dangerous as we approach the expiry of the ISAF mandate on December 31, 2014. That’s not just my personal view after years of living in Afghanistan. It’s a conclusion that cannot be avoided when looking at the number of insurgent attacks, the access of government officials to rural districts, and other security data. Now, security is only a single aspect of a complicated international effort in this country. But the fact remains that security was an eponymous part of the ISAF mission, which remains unfinished. The redeeming factor might be that NATO has helped with the formation of large Afghan security forces, and these local forces still have a fighting chance if they get enough support from donors.
How much of a presence can and should the West leave behind in Afghanistan?
Some analysts argued that the West should pull out all of the international forces because then the Taliban and other insurgent groups would lose their rallying cry of expelling foreign troops. I was skeptical about that so-called “zero option,” however, and I’m glad to see Barack Obama’s announcement of 9,800 U.S. soldiers staying in Afghanistan after 2014.
Our latest study examined places such as Faryab Province, where foreign troops pulled back a long time ago, but the insurgency became more ferocious – in other words, the absence of international troops did not calm the situation. Crisis Group recommends that the new president of Afghanistan should quickly sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, and a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO so that the post-2014 deployments can go ahead. That might also give some confidence to foreign civilians who want to remain here and keep working – myself included, honestly. I’ll feel much safer living in Kabul with some foreign troops stationed nearby.
Will a “post-NATO” Afghanistan look much like the post-Soviet Afghanistan did?
Nobody knows. This is a moment of terrible uncertainty for Afghanistan. The Soviet withdrawal can be a useful source of lessons for the next Afghan president as he manages the aftermath of a major foreign intervention, but there are important differences. For example, this excellent new paper from the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit shows how the communist system gave the Afghan security forces reasonably good logistical supply chains, but today the logistics are more fragile. So the concerns we’re seeing now about front-line units running out of bullets, diesel, food, and other essentials probably weren’t as much of a problem in the 1980s.
How loyal do you expect the country’s security forces to be to the central government?
Loyalty is hard to measure. Attrition rates are still very high, with the Afghan army losing about a third of the entire force each year. That problem isn’t likely to get solved in the coming years, although the economic hardship that will come with the dwindling of the war economy might push young men to stay employed with the Afghan forces. We haven’t seen big problems so far with Afghan units fighting each other, but there are many reports of local Afghan commanders cutting their own deals with insurgents. Those deals sometimes help to reduce the violence, but in some locations they amount to a betrayal of the central government because they allow greater freedom to the Taliban and other insurgent factions. Those localized acts of disloyalty may increase as the insurgency gets bigger.
Abdullah Abdullah looks to be the favorite to succeed Hamid Karzai. How different would you expect an Abdullah presidency to look?
It’s too early to say who will win the election. Abdullah emerged as the front-runner after the first round on April 5, and he has picked up some major endorsements that give him momentum heading into the second round in June. All the same, he’s strongly identified with the Tajik ethnic group and he faces a tough job persuading the large ethnic Pashtun voting bloc to support him.
I’m not sure that an Abdullah presidency would bring radical change to the leadership of Afghanistan, but he would probably want a better relationship with the United States. He has promised to sign the BSA to keep American troops in the country. An Afghan official also suggested to me that Abdullah would have a less ambiguous view about negotiating peace with the Taliban and other insurgents: “He won’t be calling them ‘brothers,’” he told me. That’s a reference to the fact that Karzai often referred to his “Taliban brothers” while trying to open the door to negotiations. Abdullah may prefer a harder stance, but that could also depend on the options available to him.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (CNN)
Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

What next for Afghanistan? | Graeme Smith

“To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law,” the International Crisis Group noted in a report last month.

But how likely is it that Afghanistan will receive the support it needs? And what can we expect next? Graeme Smith, the author of the report and a senior analyst with ICG,  answers readers’ questions.

How much success did NATO forces actually have? Was it more a case of displacing insurgents from one area to another, or was there genuine progress?

NATO can take credit for many successes in Afghanistan. Unfortunately there was also a clear failure to bring security, which threatens every other aspect of the mission. NATO assumed leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2003, and by every measure the country is now more dangerous as we approach the expiry of the ISAF mandate on December 31, 2014. That’s not just my personal view after years of living in Afghanistan. It’s a conclusion that cannot be avoided when looking at the number of insurgent attacks, the access of government officials to rural districts, and other security data. Now, security is only a single aspect of a complicated international effort in this country. But the fact remains that security was an eponymous part of the ISAF mission, which remains unfinished. The redeeming factor might be that NATO has helped with the formation of large Afghan security forces, and these local forces still have a fighting chance if they get enough support from donors.

How much of a presence can and should the West leave behind in Afghanistan?

Some analysts argued that the West should pull out all of the international forces because then the Taliban and other insurgent groups would lose their rallying cry of expelling foreign troops. I was skeptical about that so-called “zero option,” however, and I’m glad to see Barack Obama’s announcement of 9,800 U.S. soldiers staying in Afghanistan after 2014.

Our latest study examined places such as Faryab Province, where foreign troops pulled back a long time ago, but the insurgency became more ferocious – in other words, the absence of international troops did not calm the situation. Crisis Group recommends that the new president of Afghanistan should quickly sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, and a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO so that the post-2014 deployments can go ahead. That might also give some confidence to foreign civilians who want to remain here and keep working – myself included, honestly. I’ll feel much safer living in Kabul with some foreign troops stationed nearby.

Will a “post-NATO” Afghanistan look much like the post-Soviet Afghanistan did?

Nobody knows. This is a moment of terrible uncertainty for Afghanistan. The Soviet withdrawal can be a useful source of lessons for the next Afghan president as he manages the aftermath of a major foreign intervention, but there are important differences. For example, this excellent new paper from the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit shows how the communist system gave the Afghan security forces reasonably good logistical supply chains, but today the logistics are more fragile. So the concerns we’re seeing now about front-line units running out of bullets, diesel, food, and other essentials probably weren’t as much of a problem in the 1980s.

How loyal do you expect the country’s security forces to be to the central government?

Loyalty is hard to measure. Attrition rates are still very high, with the Afghan army losing about a third of the entire force each year. That problem isn’t likely to get solved in the coming years, although the economic hardship that will come with the dwindling of the war economy might push young men to stay employed with the Afghan forces. We haven’t seen big problems so far with Afghan units fighting each other, but there are many reports of local Afghan commanders cutting their own deals with insurgents. Those deals sometimes help to reduce the violence, but in some locations they amount to a betrayal of the central government because they allow greater freedom to the Taliban and other insurgent factions. Those localized acts of disloyalty may increase as the insurgency gets bigger.

Abdullah Abdullah looks to be the favorite to succeed Hamid Karzai. How different would you expect an Abdullah presidency to look?

It’s too early to say who will win the election. Abdullah emerged as the front-runner after the first round on April 5, and he has picked up some major endorsements that give him momentum heading into the second round in June. All the same, he’s strongly identified with the Tajik ethnic group and he faces a tough job persuading the large ethnic Pashtun voting bloc to support him.

I’m not sure that an Abdullah presidency would bring radical change to the leadership of Afghanistan, but he would probably want a better relationship with the United States. He has promised to sign the BSA to keep American troops in the country. An Afghan official also suggested to me that Abdullah would have a less ambiguous view about negotiating peace with the Taliban and other insurgents: “He won’t be calling them ‘brothers,’” he told me. That’s a reference to the fact that Karzai often referred to his “Taliban brothers” while trying to open the door to negotiations. Abdullah may prefer a harder stance, but that could also depend on the options available to him.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (CNN)

Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

3 Jun
How Obama Thinks About Counterterrorism | David Rohde
In a foreign-policy address last week, President Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al-Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.
“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat—one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”
But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding, and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully. In Libya, training by U.S. Special Forces soldiers was suspended after a local militia stole a cache of American-provided weapons. In Mali, American-trained military officers carried out a coup. And in Afghanistan, the United States failed to mount a major training effort until nine years after the fall of the Taliban.
FULL ARTICLE (The Atlantic)
Photo: cmccain202dc/flickr

How Obama Thinks About Counterterrorism | David Rohde

In a foreign-policy address last week, President Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al-Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.

“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat—one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”

But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding, and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully. In Libya, training by U.S. Special Forces soldiers was suspended after a local militia stole a cache of American-provided weapons. In Mali, American-trained military officers carried out a coup. And in Afghanistan, the United States failed to mount a major training effort until nine years after the fall of the Taliban.

FULL ARTICLE (The Atlantic)

Photo: cmccain202dc/flickr

2 Jun
Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde
In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.
“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”
But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde

In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.

“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”

But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

29 May
Relief in Afghanistan after Obama makes troop commitment | Heath Druzin
President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. plans to keep almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan past the end of the year brought relief to Afghans worried a full withdrawal would leave a security vacuum.
But questions remain about what the post-combat mission in this still-active war zone will look like.
The long wait for Obama’s announcement caused unease in a nation where, nearly 13 years after the U.S. military invasion that ousted the ruling Taliban, a war is still raging in parts of the country, and Afghan troops still rely on U.S. intelligence and technology to fight an entrenched insurgency.
“This will remove a sense of drift from U.S. military policy in Afghanistan and it will bring a sense of reassurement to pro-government enclaves in the country that Americans won’t abandon them after 2014,” said Graeme Smith, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst in Afghanistan.
FULL ARTICLE (Stars and Stripes)
Photo: isafmedia/flickr

Relief in Afghanistan after Obama makes troop commitment | Heath Druzin

President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. plans to keep almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan past the end of the year brought relief to Afghans worried a full withdrawal would leave a security vacuum.

But questions remain about what the post-combat mission in this still-active war zone will look like.

The long wait for Obama’s announcement caused unease in a nation where, nearly 13 years after the U.S. military invasion that ousted the ruling Taliban, a war is still raging in parts of the country, and Afghan troops still rely on U.S. intelligence and technology to fight an entrenched insurgency.

“This will remove a sense of drift from U.S. military policy in Afghanistan and it will bring a sense of reassurement to pro-government enclaves in the country that Americans won’t abandon them after 2014,” said Graeme Smith, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst in Afghanistan.

FULL ARTICLE (Stars and Stripes)

Photo: isafmedia/flickr

22 May
Afghanistan’s Opium Economy Is Doing Better Than Ever | Alice Speri
Despite billions spent in eradication efforts, Afghanistan’s opium harvest is set to break all records this year, as one of the country’s primary agricultural activities and most profitable export trades blooms in the midst of an uncertain political and military transition.
Afghanistan produced tons of opium in 2013 — an estimated 6,062 tons in fact, — growing its output for the third consecutive year, and up 36 percent from the year before.
The hike followed a short-lived drop in production as international and Afghan officials attempted to eradicate cultivation of the delicate plant, which produces the main ingredient used in heroin.
As most foreign troops prepare to leave by year’s end, likely followed out the door by billions in development aid, Afghanistan’s blossoming illicit trade is a reflection of many of the uncertainties ahead — as the country deals with massive unemployment, a fragile security, and the fear of losing ground on progress made in the last few years.
FULL ARTICLE (VICE)
Photo: isafmedia/flickr

Afghanistan’s Opium Economy Is Doing Better Than Ever | Alice Speri

Despite billions spent in eradication efforts, Afghanistan’s opium harvest is set to break all records this year, as one of the country’s primary agricultural activities and most profitable export trades blooms in the midst of an uncertain political and military transition.

Afghanistan produced tons of opium in 2013 — an estimated 6,062 tons in fact, — growing its output for the third consecutive year, and up 36 percent from the year before.

The hike followed a short-lived drop in production as international and Afghan officials attempted to eradicate cultivation of the delicate plant, which produces the main ingredient used in heroin.

As most foreign troops prepare to leave by year’s end, likely followed out the door by billions in development aid, Afghanistan’s blossoming illicit trade is a reflection of many of the uncertainties ahead — as the country deals with massive unemployment, a fragile security, and the fear of losing ground on progress made in the last few years.

FULL ARTICLE (VICE)

Photo: isafmedia/flickr

20 May

Graeme Smith, Senior Analyst for Afghanistan, discusses the challenges Afghanistan faces as the last of foreign troops begin to withdrawal from the country.

13 May
"A diplomatic, economic and military investment at this stage of the conflict, before insurgents gain further momentum, could prevent a costly disaster."

—Samina Ahmed, South Asia Project Director and Senior Asia Adviser, on our latest report,Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition