Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, December 14th, 2018

Conflict in Afghanistan to Intensify in 2018: ICG

Conflict in Afghanistan  to Intensify in 2018: ICG

KABUL - With America’s new strategy raising the tempo of operations against the Taliban, the war in Afghanistan looks set to intensify during the current year, warns an independent international organisation.
The objective behind the US strategy is to halt the Taliban’s momentum and, eventually, force the rebel group into a political settlement. But at the moment, the strategy is exclusively military.
In a report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the strategy -- facing serious obstacles -- was unlikely to change the war’s course or the incentives of a locally-rooted and potent insurgency.
Military leaders contend this time will be different because Trump, unlike Obama, has not set a withdrawal timeline but the argument holds little water, according to the Brussels-based group.
The parliamentary election -- slated for July 2018 and a presidential vote due in 2019 -- would suck oxygen from the military campaign, the report warned. “Every vote since 2004 has ignited some form of crisis...”
Seeking to prevent conflict, ICG noted the political discord today was particularly severe, with President Ashraf Ghani accused by his critics of monopolising power in the hands of a few advisors.
It added America’s regional diplomacy had so far centered on pressuring Pakistan; yet the calculations that motivated Islamabad’s support for the insurgency were unlikely to change.
“The Taliban also now enjoy ties to Iran and Russia, which claim to view it as a bulwark against an Islamic State branch in Afghanistan that is small but resilient -- and also capable of mounting high-profile attacks.
“Washington’s militarized approach and diminished diplomacy risk signaling to those countries that it seeks not to stabilise and leave Afghanistan but to maintain a military presence.”
ICG agreed that sustained US support might reinforce the morale of the Afghan National Army. A precipitous withdrawal, in contrast, could trigger chaos, it maintained.
The Trump administration was asked to keep open lines of communication to the insurgency open and explore the contours of a settlement with Afghanistan’s neighbours and other regional powers.
“As it stands, that strategy sets the stage for more violence while closing avenues for de-escalation. Afghan civilians will pay the price,” the report concluded. (Pajhwok)