Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

A Farewell to the Grim Year

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A Farewell to the Grim Year

Afghan nation has left a bloody year behind and sustained heavy casualties as a result of the Taliban’s intensified attacks. The death of Omer’s successor in late May, 2016, who was considered an obstacle before peace talks, did not break the stalemate and the escalated militancy continued. The war has reportedly caused more than 8,000 civilian casualties, including nearly 2,600 deaths, in the first nine months of 2016. Similarly, more than 5,500 Afghan forces were killed in the first eight months of 2016 while around 10,000 were wounded. The totals for the full year are likely to be much higher because the war intensified since August.
In addition, an unprecedented 551,000 people have fled their homes because of the intensified and expanded war. Afghan and US officials say more than 1 million Afghan refugees; including undocumented families in neighboring Pakistan and Iran have returned home in 2016, setting a record. When internally displaced people are counted in, more than 1.5 million Afghans have been on the move since January, according to UNAMA officials.
Currently, there is fear that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will be a serious threat to Afghanistan. The ISIL group was involved in mysterious deaths and spilt the blood of ethnic minority groups on the grounds of their race, color and creed in 2016 and it is likely that this group has gained stronger foothold in the country and will stoke sectarian violence more than ever before. A number of the Taliban’s splinter group was also believed to pledge allegiance to the ISIL, following the disputes over Mullah Mansour’s appointment as Omer’s successor.
The precursor group to ISIL, comprised mainly of disaffected Pakistani Taliban, first began making inroads into Afghanistan in 2014, announcing their arrival with the hanging of a dozen Taliban commanders in Nuristan Province. Of late, it is said that the ISIL group is widely involved in recruiting teenagers in Nangarhar to fight security forces in the eastern province. On the contrary, the Resolute Support (RS) mission in Afghanistan reports that the number of ISIL fighters decreased to 1,000 of which 700 are in Nangarhar province and the rest in Kunar province. It adds that the ISIL controlled 11 districts at the start of 2016 but are now active in only three districts. 
Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said earlier that the ISIL group sought to strengthen their base in Nangarhar province. He reiterated, “They’ve largely been pushed back to the southern parts of Nangarhar province. That area is very, very rugged, it’s very mountainous, it’s on the border with Pakistan, and that’s where most of the Daesh in Nangarhar currently is.”
Overall, the presence of ISIL fighters, who practice upon extremely radical ideology, has filled the air with a sense of fear and disappointment and seems to strengthen their foothold in the country. They intend to sow the seeds of mistrust and animosity among the Afghan nation or simply put pressure on the government through the acts of violence. Indeed, the venom spew forth by ISIL fighters will have a far-reaching impact on teenagers who reside tribal areas – the same policy was applied by the Taliban, especially during their regime and some locals embraced their radical mentality which was painted with the brush of religion. In a nutshell, the traditional tribes are vulnerable to the ISIL’s deceptive ideology or will succumb to the force used by the group to impose their parochial mindset with the barrel of gun.
Although the ISIL group seems to be retreating in Iraq and Syria, its loyalists continue violence in Afghanistan. 2016 was a grim year and the National Unity Government (NUG) was in the grip of insurgency. The gleam of hope for peace eluded with the Taliban’s Omari Operation and suffered in the worst possible way. In other words, warring factions narrowed the ground for democratic practices through carrying out indiscriminate attacks against combatants and non-combatants alike.
With the mounting insurgency, a gap between state and nation emerged – which was compounded by political tensions among the officials. The political conflicts went viral every once in a while by high-ranking officials – it deteriorated as the first vice president Abdul Rashid Dustoom said that he had been marginalized from political issue and his role reduced. Hence, the NUG was wrestling not only with insurgency but also with political tensions.

It is hoped that the tragic year, which left indescribable casualties behind, will be an eye-opener for the NUG. They have to cultivate unity and abolish the roots of terrorism. The heavy operations against ISIL fighters, carried out by the government along with US forces, were very fruitful but there is still a lot to be done so as to root them out in 2017. So, the NUG is hoped to strengthen democracy through protecting the rights and liberty of the nation and intensify military attacks against warring factions rather than zeroing in on peace talks – which have been constantly denied by the militant fighters. Prayerfully, the war-weary Afghan nation, will heave a sigh of relief in a civil society void of violence and carnage.  

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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