The Friday attack on Afghan National Army’s 209 Shaheen Corps Headquarters in Balkh province proved to be highly lethal. Initial statement by Ministry of Defense (MoD) after the attack confirmed the death toll to be 11; however, on Saturday morning it said that about 100 soldiers have been killed and wounded. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that 140 soldiers had been killed in the attack. And, U.S’s Central Command Colonel John Thomas told that the casualties could be more than 50.
This is really tragic and hints at the level of threat that Afghan forces face. It is also important to note that 209 Shaheen Corps Headquarters is a highly protected installation with multilayered security setup. A high level attack without the support from inside the installation is almost impossible. Therefore, it is really vital to gauge the level of threats that such security installations face from the insider attacks or conspiracy and take necessary measures to thwart them.
It is also necessary to the see the attack in the light of the increasing insecurity in different parts of the country. Only a month earlier, a similar type of deadly attack was carried out in the Army Hospital in the capital Kabul. There were claims after that attack as well that insiders were there to support the insurgents. Afghan security forces, therefore, need to carryout extra-vigilant measures to stop such attacks and protect themselves, particularly, in the coming few months during the Taliban’s spring offensive.
Last year, Afghan security forces faced a challenging scenario as well and in the process many of them lost their precious lives. US government's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) earlier said in its report for 2016 that 6,785 Afghan security force members were killed in the year, and another 11,777 were wounded. Comparing it with the previous reports revealed an increase of about 35 percent against the same period in 2015, when some 5,000 security forces were killed. The SIGAR report stated that the majority of Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) casualties continued to be the result of direct-fire attacks, with IED explosions and mine strikes accounting for much lower levels of casualties.
Moreover, SIGAR’s analysis of the most recent data provided by U.S Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) suggested that the security situation in the country has not improved. The numbers of Afghan security forces were decreasing, while both casualties and the number of districts under insurgent control or influence were increasing. USFOR-A found that about 57.2 percent of the country’s 407 districts were under Afghan government control or influence as of November 15, 2016 – a 6.2 percent decrease from the 63.4 percent reported the previous quarter ending late August, and a nearly 15 percent decrease since November 2015. Of the 407 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, 233 districts were under government control (83 districts) or influence (150), 41 districts (in 15 provinces) were under insurgent control (9) or influence (32), and 133 districts were “contested.”
The report described contested districts as having “negligible meaningful impact from insurgents,” contending that neither the insurgency nor the Afghan government maintained significant control over these areas.
The data clearly shows that insecurity is going to be a major challenge for Afghan government and security forces this year as well. Taliban and other insurgents have already increased their activities. There are fears among the people in Afghanistan that their lives would once again be influenced badly by the wave of terrorism and insurgency. After the downfall of Taliban, Afghan people had hoped that their lives would change and the circumstances would lead towards a better and peaceful future, but the last few years have pointed towards worsening security situation.
The response of the government in the face of the rising insecurity is really lethargic. It has been largely influenced by the differences that prevail within the ranks of National Unity Government (NUG) regarding the approach that has to be adopted against the situation. The members of NUG see the issue with different perspectives and are not ready to cooperate with each other in designing a comprehensive and unanimous policy to tackle the situation. This has led to misunderstandings and ambiguities in the war against terrorism on operational level as well.
Afghan government, therefore, has to get united and strive to control the situation properly. It needs to understand that as a result of decades of instability and socio-economic and political problems, the Afghan people have been suffering from myriads of problems. Coupled with the issue of insecurity, there are some very concerning issues that exist in our society and threaten the lives of the common people of Afghanistan.
Afghan government must therefore get serious in tackling the issue of the insecurity and strive to protect valuable human resource. Afghan National Security Forces are vital for the peace and tranquility of the country. Though their profession requires them to be on the forefront of the war, proper strategic planning and policy making by the government officials can support them in achieving peace without having to lose many valuable lives. Moreover, proper strategies can assist the government in building its legitimacy and gaining support among the people, who otherwise seem to have lost their hopes about a tranquil and prosperous future.