Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Instability in Farah and other border provinces


Instability in Farah and other border provinces

Recent fierce fighting between Taliban and Afghan government at many places in the country, more so in Farah, Baghlan, Faryab and Ghazni, and almost simultaneous two attacks in Kabul city indicate to situations where our internal security system, largely managed by police and military, needs rethinking on strategy and approach. Situation in Farah bordering Iran has been taking serious turns for the last at least five months when coordinated attacks on police check-posts started, which led to changes in senior administration and security leaders, including the Provincial Governor and Chief of Police.  Temporarily, situations improved and then again deteriorated leading to almost collapse last week. It raises concerns whether changes in leadership are sufficient or operational and tactical level security methodologies are to be restructured, re-engineered and reformed.
Afghanistan’s neighbors pursue their interests in the country and have shaped their policies around these interests. Therefore, changes in attitude and strategy formulation of Afghan government in the ongoing war against international terrorism can invite either wrath or kindness of the neighboring countries. In such a precarious situation, Afghan government should take heed of these sensitivities and enter into dialogue with governments of neighboring countries – especially Pakistan and Iran to dissuade hostile behavior on the part of these countries. In essence, terrorism is a scourge and no one country should support it whatever the cost of doing so might be, and this is a universal reality. Dialogue between Afghan government and its neighboring countries can pave the way for reaching a broader perspective to formulate mutual strategies that can safeguard interests of all the countries, and bring about cordial environment to develop working relationship in areas of policing, sharing intelligence, movement of people across the border and fight against drug trafficking.     
One of the major areas for cooperation and improvement include security sector and more so policing methodologies and provincial governance, including coordination and cooperation on information gathering and intelligence, which need to be made effective and workable with unity of efforts, so that a semblance of order is restored in the districts and provinces first, enabling economic development and launching of efforts for sustainable peace and security. It seems ongoing reforms, which are laudable, have been at the national level without much impact on ground realities. Therefore, there is a need for evaluation of the impacts of these reforms at grassroots level and the will to continuously visit reform methodology for remedial purpose during the entire cycle of reform implementation process. 
The country where, many parts do not have security systems and policing in place after sunset, many parts of the it are not accessible, and many government services, including mobile telephone services are not fully controlled by the government. Strategy has to be evolved by Afghans with inclusive process and it is to be Afghan centered. No strategy designed and developed by others, not aware of Afghan realities may succeed and such strategies remain only paper based and desktop beautiful documents. Strategy should reflect reality and should be robust and easy to implement across the country through existing resources of Afghan government. In order for this to happen, Afghan government should develop a viable and down to earth implementation plan for its reform strategies. Our armed forces and police are getting professionalized but need more improvement and also need to match realities on the ground. They have a long way to go. They need to orient themselves to reality of situations with whole of government approach and widen their reach to areas round the clock. Strategically, area domination techniques should be revived by keeping the roads open all the time. 
It has become a trend that Afghan officials blame Iran for the situation in Farah and the Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Tariq Shah Bahrami has said that the war in Farah is “a war over water” and that some countries in the region are trying to destabilize Afghanistan. He is probably pointing to Pakistan, Iran and possibly Russia as few experts opine that ‘an unholy coalition of our neighbors — Russia, Pakistan and Iran — has been formed in the region’. Minister of Interior, Mr. Barmak has promised to send more troops to Farah and vowed to remove all the hurdles. Iran, Pakistan and Russia deny all such aspersions and raise concerns on internal problems in Afghanistan and rise of Islamic State.
The people of Afghanistan believe that the root cause for eastern border problems is Durand line, which was demarcated in 1893 and till now it remains unaddressed. After the incident in Farah province last week, Afghan government officials believe that the problem is on water. No doubt, water is essential and Afghanistan needs it as well as Iran.  We should start exploring of addressing these problems diplomatically and politically through bilateral, regional and international mechanisms. Both countries, Afghanistan and Iran had the last agreement to share the water in 1973 and both have accused each other of breaching it, but have not developed a functional water sharing mechanism.
Afghan security strategy should focus on: hardening of security eco-system of the cities, towns, villages and qaryas; separating out individual criminal acts and responding to them and developing diplomatic, political, regional and international mechanisms. Till now, the security system has focused more on hardening of possible targets of insurgency and so, one finds heavily fortified security, government and other installations with series of T walls and sand bags everywhere. Not much attention is paid to make the eco system safe. It is the reason that insurgents appear repeatedly and launch attacks. Concerted efforts are not there to develop mechanisms, which could respond quickly to emerging challenges and learn from ongoing incidents.
Farah police should be able to coordinate and cooperate with their counter parts across border, Iran and make efforts to separate criminal acts, which are: acquiring and possessing weapons and explosive, transportation of weapons, attacking government institutions and people, killing and injuring security forces and people and also smuggling of drugs, weapons and support equipment. There is need of developing working level law enforcement cooperation mechanism and appropriate regional and international mechanisms. Police to police cooperation and other working level cooperation, such as on customs, drugs, immigration would be able to at least, reduce conflict related criminality. The mechanism will pave the way to discuss information on trans-border crimes and criminals and possibility of utilizing law enforcement tools. Security in bordering provinces including Farah may remain fragile unless holistic, area specific mechanisms are developed and put in place. These should reflect local realties and focus on unity of efforts through field coordination, governance, decentralized decision making and appropriate accountability mechanisms.

The author is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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