Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Taliban Earns Political leverage at National & International Levels as Afghan Government Failed to Assert Itself

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Taliban Earns Political leverage at National & International  Levels as Afghan Government Failed to Assert Itself

The matrix of Afghan Government failures to manage the most important national projects – that include upcoming parliamentary elections, peace process with Taliban, provision of security for the people across the country and fight against corruption – has become chronically long, which has tarnished the ability of Government to deliver effectively on any of these projects. This has in turn started to diminish peoples and international partners’ trust on the ability of Government of Afghanistan to effectively deliver and manage projects of such national importance.
The process for undertaking parliamentary elections was started in April this year. Major milestones were supposed to be accomplished within calendar schedule / plan, prepared and disseminated by Independent Elections Commission (IEC) at the time. But none of these milestones were met within pre-set timeframe by IEC, which has crippled operational ability of IEC to achieve logistical and procurement objectives for all thirty-four provinces across the country. IEC landed in controversies leading to allegations of frauds in voter registration and resignations and appointments of senior officials of the IEC and these impacted adversely on the integrity of the election process. These could have been avoided. In addition, lack of strong political will and assertiveness by Government to push forward with constitutional agenda through whole of government approach and implementation of Independent Election Complaint Commission (IECC) decisions has created unnecessary headaches, which included demonstrations by disqualified candidates, closure of IEC and IECC offices by so called supporters of these disqualified candidates and unnecessary delays in announcement of final list of qualified candidates. IEC and IECC offices have been shut down since last more than ten days, which continues to take toll on scheduled performance towards organization and undertaking of elections in October 2018. Worse of all, neither IEC nor IECC or the Government has come out to explain to the people of Afghanistan what is cooking for them. This silence has exacerbated the present situation by giving way to all kinds of rumors including possible delays of parliamentary elections or complete cancelation. The Government is losing trust among the people and has weakened its ability to deliver on such important national project.
Government offered peace negotiation to Taliban insurgents and managed a short stint of ceasefire with the Taliban during last three days of Eid festivities in June 2018. But as the clock ticked past 12am, Taliban fighters returned to their barracks and resumed attacking Government positions across the country. Government of Afghanistan and its international partners have termed this a ‘success’ without realizing that Taliban had social and political agendas when they reciprocated for ceasefire and flocked in thousands to cities hugging people and security personnel and waving their white flags. They succeeded in their strategy. Based on this apparent success of this ceasefire, Government once again announced ‘conditional ceasefire’ with Taliban on 19 August 2018 for three months. But Taliban refused to reciprocate with ceasefire. In the meantime, Taliban and US Government started talking within this period without participation of Afghan Government. Though Government of Afghanistan has announced it was aware of the ongoing talks between US Government and Taliban, but it has never provided any details of these talks to the people of Afghanistan. The only hint about these talks between Taliban and US Government was given in the message of Taliban leader, Mr. Mollah Haibatullah, who said ‘what the US wanted was neither acceptable, nor implementable’. This whole episode questions Government position in the ongoing peace process, and the message delivered to the people of Afghanistan is that Afghan Government is not the only authority deciding their fate. Even regional countries Uzbekistan and Indonesia engaged Taliban in discussions after inviting their delegations. Now, Moscow is in the process of hosting a summit on 4 September 2018 inviting Taliban and other countries. It is quite clear that there are others, more powerful hands at play. This situation – if continued – will not bode well for the Government, and will dent its credibility to act as sole, legitimate body on behalf of the people of Afghanistan.
Provision of security, law and order and safety are the most important duties of Government towards its subjects to deliver. But Afghan Government continued to fail on this important deliverable. The incident on 21 August 2018 where so called insurgents have fired rockets / missiles on Presidential Palace appalled the whole nation. Government security institutions have failed to secure the heart of capital. This has given way to rumors that ‘attacks like these are carried out by people inside security institutions, who are assigned in important positions by powerful people, and who are at present in loggerhead with Government due to their disqualification to contest elections…’ . Every time after incident, agencies started blaming each other and put onus of intelligence failure without addressing fundamental flaws in security structure and policing and their accountability mechanisms, so preventive methodologies could be well adopted. According to Mr. Upendra Baghel, a scholarly specialist in security and building state institutions, ‘Intelligence is an analysis of an array of information which are gathered and collected through various means. The agencies will never be able to preempt all breaches but they learn lessons from each to prevent further breaches. It is simply not possible to prevent all otherwise US would have prevented 9/11 and India would have prevented 26/11…’ In Afghanistan, repeated breaches do take place and it raises serious concerns to reflect upon our security set up. But, not to mention attacks on educational institutions, which has killed and injured more than hundred people, incidents such as fateful attacks on entire province in Ghazni by thousands of insurgents has put a big question mark on the ability of Government to protect civilians from such blatant, visible and large scale military operation. Afghan Government is not fighting with external, organized and large military contingents. It is engaged in fight with insurgents who carry out guerrilla type attacks on Government institutions since last eighteen years. We are under insurgency and terrorism and these are to be tackled through robust policing with appropriate soft skills and proportionate armed response. This is a time enough to learn psychology of enemy, how they make a move, where their fighters are and where to focus intelligence agency to gather information in order to make plans and preempt any attack of the size and scale carried out in Ghazni. It is incomprehensible a failure by Government forces, which warrants proper explanation and investigation within the system.
Corruption is the one major problem and the most dangerous threat to national security before this Government. It is important to understand that delivering good governance to masses and building inclusive state institutions depend on corruption free environment. Government is checkered with endemic corruption, and the toll it is taking on resources and efforts on the part of Government to deliver services is vast. National institutions - in particular the present parliament – have been the main impediments before Government to clean up corruption. Many centers of powers within Government system continue to create chaos and disruption. Political affiliation, campaign contributors, nepotism and favoritism, all play a role in spreading corruption in Government institutions. It is unfortunate that in spite of focused anti-corruption efforts, we are not able to make an impact on the lives of people. The efforts largely continue to remain academic and selective without whole of government people inclusive approach. Unless this menace is completely eradicated, Government will not be able to deliver.
On the other hand, Taliban have increased frequency of their attacks on Government positions, have widened their political and diplomatic spectrum, added in their list of countries who have established diplomatic relationship with the group, which include Uzbekistan, Turkey, Russia, China, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Taliban have become more organized, their operations have synchronized across the country, they exhibit political and diplomatic maturity and their dealing with local populations have improved a great deal. Recent rush and spasmodic approach by Government of Afghanistan towards Taliban to negotiate peace and reach a ceasefire exhibited a little bit hasty handling of the matter by Afghan Government. It seems like Government is not acting within the free space required to undertake such moves, which – if true – will backfire and put the Government in the lowest ebb of its credibility to undertake or participate in matters of national importance.
It is incumbent on Government to come up with better approach which is clear, be frank and honest with its people. Silence on the status of the above mentioned important national projects is not a solution to ongoing problems. Government should take the people, its subjects and international partners in confidence and share the facts and figures of the depth and width of the problems it is stuck in, and should take a strong stand in accomplishing these national priorities  – be them with some delays, but should come up with a pragmatic plans and milestones to succeed.

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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