Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Ministers of Defense and Interior Should Overhaul Afghan Defense and Security Institutions to Match / Defeat Existing Security Challenges

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Ministers of Defense and Interior Should Overhaul  Afghan Defense and Security Institutions  to Match / Defeat Existing Security Challenges

After their appointment as Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior, both Misters Assadullah Khalid and Amrullah Saleh have respectively took on stage and boasted high profile slogans by issuing new directives and setting up new goals. Mr. Khalid has said that ‘we will hit the enemy hard and root them out of their positions’ and that ‘Afghan defense and security forces will no more remain in defensive position and will go on offensive against the enemy’. Mr. Saleh has said that ‘he will be merciless on criminals and enemy of the country and will serve the people’ and has issued a number of directives to officials of Ministry of Interior about their conducts. So far so good as it comes to intent and willingness to achieve, but it is also true that both these gentlemen were leading figures at their turn as chief of Afghan Spy Agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and held different other portfolios in the previous Government headed by Hamid Karzai so they must be aware and should have deep knowledge about weaknesses and strengths of Afghan security and defense institutions. It is no secret that defense and security institutions need long due overhaul and structural reforms in areas of command & control, logistics and battlefield operations, de-politicization, professionalization and setting up an effective mechanism for coordination and synchronization of information and operations between security agencies in the country. Without fixing flaws and weaknesses in these institutions, it will not be possible to draw optimal results and achieve high profile goals in the face of prevailing challenges posed by an entrenched insurgency, international terrorist groups and pockets of armed men associated with strongmen across the country who engage in criminal activities including opiate economy and plunder of country’s national treasures such as precious gemstones and minerals, and contributing to worsening law and order situation.
Out of few areas mentioned above, the most important tasks before these new leaders are to de-politicize and professionalize both Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior. It has been an established custom that political leaders who take charge as senior Government official – especially in security and defense institutions – have attempted to meddle in the appointment of senior security officials including generals and all other ranks below the line of command. There are rumors that ex-National Security Advisor ‘has appointed many senior officials in the ranks of Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and NDS’ and that ‘these appointments are meant to manipulate and serve vested individual political interests when time for such manipulation arrives’. The same is true for all previous political leaders during their tenures at defense and security institutions. This whole phenomenon has taken immense toll on the performance, unity of purpose, disarray in chain of command & control and professionalism at defense and security institutions, which in turn has resulted in the absence of a national security agenda and comprehensive war strategy in the face of ongoing insurgency and war against international terrorism – not to mention security and law & order issues posed by criminal gangs operating in cities under government control. In addition, huge losses in battlefields incurred on Afghan security personnel are mostly because of lack of knowledge and experience of field commanders in battlefields to engage in such fights, hence number of casualties including death and injuries have been consistent at one thousand five hundreds to two thousands per month, turning this ‘war on terror’ a ‘war of attrition’ waged by insurgents. Reports of soldiers dying due to lack of information and intelligence gathering, timely reinforcement, ammunition, food and water in battlefields have checkered record of performance of our defense and security institutions. Worse is the fact that such incidents, which have been so rampant and local populations have reported them with authentic amateur photos from the sites and shared them in social media, have totally been blacked out by Government news outlets! There is nothing wrong in approach to restrict the dissemination of these but the Security forces have to win the dwindling confidence of people in their capabilities.
The situation is unprecedented as no insurgency in any country got spread over the whole country as in Afghanistan. This insurgency is distributed with guerrilla tactics and access to sophisticated operational tools and access to dedicated canon-fodder. Upendra Baghel, an analyst on Afghan situations says ‘Afghanistan needs sustainable and harmonized counter insurgency measures dismantling their operational capability, support and logistics base and distorted ideological narrative. In the absence of these, the promise would not result into wonders.’
Other factors that contribute to this ongoing pathetic condition in our defense and security institutions include failure of Government officials to depict reality and challenges on the ground to their international donors / supporters, and instead draw rosy pictures of ‘progress and successes’ in battlefields simply to pave the way for lavish funding. Corruption has been the number one cause paving the way for present status of these institutions, but as a lot have been said about corruption I will not stretch this factor.
The points mentioned above are tips of the iceberg as there have been reports that agents / spies of neighboring countries’ intelligence agencies are currently on duty as senior officials in the ranks of Ministries of Defense and Interior – and even at NDS. These reports may not be true but the leadership should embark upon strict adherence to recently announced code of conduct which will improve professional conduct of our armed forces and their individual accountability. This is a task not easy laid bare before the new leadership of both Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior to handle, and it isn’t easy without showing a strong resolve and consistent efforts to wipe out our defense and security institutions of this scourge of unprofessional conduct. Before embarking on any major undertakings, the newly appointed leaders should fix our security and defense institutions to ensure success.

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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