Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Bell the Cat

Do you really think that resuming reconciliation process will lead to political stability? The Taliban’s radical leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada still orchestrates deadly attacks against the National Unity Government (NUG) and nation suffers violence and carnage severely. With the current crises, the gleam of hope disappeared and Afghan men and women are exhausted from the situation. Political rhetoric and bombastic discourse about peace talks are likely to be no more a panacea for the challenges. Unsurprisingly, nation’s ballots could not protect them from the militants’ bullets and the slogans for democracy, which were chanted during the presidential campaigns, never came true.
Now in its 16th year, the intervention in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history. More than 8,000 troops are still deployed here, down from a peak of around 100,000. More than 2,300 American soldiers and at least 31,000 civilians have died in the conflict, which has cost about $800bn. Similarly, Afghan soldiers sustained high casualties within the two last years as the Taliban declared their spring offensive and Omari Operation. US Army General John Nicholson expressed deep concern over the high fatalities of Afghan soldiers saying that both corruption and leaders failing to lead their troops on the ground in a dangerous situation are resulting in Afghan Security Force casualties. Moreover, spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support Brigadier General Charlie Cleveland said, “Casualties are a problem.” He added that checkpoints are “a huge source of casualties” and many of the Afghan casualties have occurred at the thousands of Afghan checkpoints around the country, which are usually undermanned.
Despite this fact, The Taliban is on the offensive, funded by a booming drugs trade, and reportedly controls more territory than it ever has since the 2001 invasion. It briefly managed to capture the important northern city of Kunduz last September, and threatens to take other provincial capitals, too.       
A new story by The Washington Post paints a bleak picture of the war, with one US official describing it as an “eroding stalemate”. To make matters worse, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has emerged in the country. Suspected ISIL fighters just killed dozens of civilians in retaliation for the death of one of their commanders.
ISIL spill the blood of innocent men, women and children on the grounds of their caste, creed and color and seeks to stoke sectarianism across the country. This year, suspected loyalists to ISIL abducted and/or killed a number of the ethnic minority group, attacked the procession in Kabul and threatened to continue so.
Increased violence has taken a heavy toll on the civilian population. The UN documented record civilian casualties in 2015, with little improvement this year. Indeed, 2016 has seen a “worrying” 15 percent increase in child casualties. Afghanistan is the world’s second largest source of refugees, after Syria, and a “brain drain” has seen educated professionals flee the country, while the number of internally displaced Afghans has doubled since 2013. According to UNHCR, the total numbers of “people of concern”, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and returnees, nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015, rising from 985,197 to 1.77 million people. UNOCHA estimates that 265,141 more were displaced from their homes in 31 of 34 provinces between 1 January and 15 September 2016.
On top of this has come an unprecedented rise in recent months in the return of registered and unregistered refugees from Pakistan, averaging 5,000 people daily in early September. Combined with the new internally displaced, an alarming one million (57 per cent of whom are children) could be on the move just as winter sets in between September and December 2016. All will require urgent food assistance, health, shelter and other essential services. This spike in the numbers of IDPs and returnees will increase the percentage of the population facing seasonal or permanent food insecurity beyond the current estimate of 40 per cent, and will further strain already meager economic and employment opportunities and public services.
The NUG’s inability or unwillingness to respond to these challenges has profound implications for both its legitimacy and the future of the post-Taliban political order. In the Asia Foundation’s 2015 Survey of the Afghan People, citizens who believed the country was going in the right direction declined to 37 per cent from 55 percent in 2014. After insecurity, worsening economic conditions were cited as the main reason for such pessimism. While the NUG inherited problems that were already mounting before it was formed in September 2014, the Afghan public increasingly links the worsening economy with the government’s policies and/or inability to perform.
Aside from some major infrastructure projects such as energy transit routes, which depend on good security and may take years to make a tangible impact on the economy, the NUG has done little to respond to immediate asks such as job creation or the protection of the private sector against rising criminality and insecurity. Hence, the NUG will have to take practical and effective steps in tackling the aforementioned crises rather than giving empty rhetoric or expressing condolence over the terrorist victims, which will never alleviate the anguish of their families.