Blazing Spring Offensive, Taliban up the ante ahead of US withdrawal
April 20, 2012
Afghanistan’s future seems obscure. President Karzai has failed to steward the country towards political stability. The coalition forces are unable to defeat and eliminate the Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The internal situation of Afghanistan is alarming and it necessitates that the external stakeholders, including United States and Pakistan, should acknowledge the real problems of the Afghans and revise their Afghanistan policies.
Critical analysis of the last decade Afghanistan’s situation underscores that ruling Kabul from outside of Afghanistan is impossible and would be having serious repercussions for the neighboring states in particular and international security in general. President Karzai failed to deliver despite the developed world’s gigantic military and economic assistance.
Since President Obama announced to end the Operation Enduring Freedom and withdraw forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban have increased their coordinated attacks in the major cities, including Kabul. On April 15, 2012, Taliban simultaneously launched attacks in four major cities of Afghanistan, targeting heavily protected embassies and the parliament building in Kabul, Paktia, etc. The Taliban spokesperson stated that it was the start of the spring-offensive in Kabul.
The recent 18-hour assault by squads of Taliban not only exposed the intelligence agencies’ inadequate functioning in Afghanistan, but also raised three interlinked questions: Is Taliban’s role undeniable in Afghanistan? Will the native Afghan law-enforcement agencies be able to restore the rule of law in the country in the aftermath of the foreign troops’ withdrawal? What would be the impact of these attacks on Washington-Islamabad relations?
Taliban constitute a recognizable force in Afghanistan. Though the United States and its allies were successful in quashing their government in Kabul in 2001, they failed to completely eliminate them or create a powerful anti-Taliban, Afghans alliance, which would be able to prevent Afghanistan failing again in the control of Taliban in near future.
The chances about the reemergence of Taliban became very significant, especially, once the Americans approached and tried to engage them in a dialogue process regarding the future of Afghanistan. Secondly, the US/NATO/ISAF forces were not able to defeat Taliban in the rural areas of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s internal trends reveal that the newly-recruited forces would not be successful in checking Taliban’s reemergence in the country. Even the trainers of the newly-recruited Afghan police and paramilitary forces are not confident about the effectiveness of these recruits. The general impression is that majority of them may betray the Karzai regime and join the Taliban ranks after the training.
The credibility of the Afghan law-enforcement agencies is very much low. Though President Karzai tried to shift partial burden on to the NATO intelligence units, he is unable to conceal the bankruptcy of his own government. He stated: “The terrorists’ infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us, and especially for NATO, and should be seriously investigated.” Indeed, it should be seriously investigated. The investigation should be objective so that the NATO members ought to be able to chalk out a pragmatic-cum-practicable strategy during its May 2012 summit in Chicago, United States. In reality, both the Americans and Europeans have lost their appetite for the continued presence of US/NATO/ISAF troops in Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the NATO Commander and the United States Ambassador in Kabul expressed their satisfaction on the performance of the Afghan’s newly-recruited law-enforcement force. They opined that their reaction was very timely and they had successfully thwarted the Talban onslaught. This optimistic observation is very attractive and certainly has relaxing impact on the Europeans and Americans. However, the ground realities are very much pessimistic and perilous.
Pakistan cannot isolate itself from Afghanistan. The developments in Afghanistan always have spillover effects on Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad is doing its best to be part of the process which is defining the future of Afghanistan. At the same time, it has been rewriting its foreign and strategic policy. In this context, the major issue to define its relationship with the United States. The Sunday’s coordinated attacks by Taliban have once again created skepticism about Islamabad’s role in Afghanistan affairs. It was reported that these attacks were launched by the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network. In September 2011, former US chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen declared Haqqani-network as a “veritable arm” of ISI of Pakistan. Nonetheless, it is good news that the US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey declared that ‘the US does not have any intelligence yet on whether the deadly weekend attack was planned in Pakistan’.
The Taliban have been systematically signaling and generating an impression that after the departure of US/NATO/ISAF troops no one would be able to challenge their power in Afghanistan. They would once again capture Kabul and govern the country. This signaling needs to be understood in letter and spirit by both the internal and external stakeholders of Afghanistan.