The system of government is one of the most dysfunctional in the world and its three branches are locked in dispute.
The seats in President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet are almost half unfilled; the parliament has turned on itself; and the judicial system is seen as being corrupt and under the influence of the president and his team. As a 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report points out: “Lack of due process of law remains a major failing of the legal system.”
The Afghan security forces are almost the weakest in the region. These forces, which are critical to the future stability of Afghanistan, are lacking in professionalism, training and equipment – yet they are being asked to fight insurgents who have become more powerful than ever before.
In this context, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan would amount to wasted decade of effort at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of lives – the lives Afghan civilians and national and international forces.
Today the international community is transferring the control of the country to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) do not have enough trained and experienced personnel. They do not have enough heavy weapons other than rocket launchers and machine guns. They do not have enough fighter jets or aircrafts. They do not have enough tanks. And, most importantly, the majority of the ANA and ANP do not join the security forces to fight insurgents; they join only for a pay check they cannot get in any other field.
Being able to carry out major tasks such as defending the border area with nuclear neighbour Pakistan is unlikely if the performance of the national security forces in handling attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul is considered: they were not able to end the assaults on the Intercontinental Hotel and the British Council without calling in NATO support.
The increase in insurgent attacks is due to revised tactics, the use of fresh recruits, and corruption within the government that allows fighters to transport explosives and ammunition wherever they want.
The effects of the increases in insurgent attacks were referred to in the 2010 reports of both the UN and Human Rights Watch.
HRW asserted that the security situation had deteriorated in the north of Afghanistan as well as remaining acute in the South and East.
In the first nine months of 2010, the United Nations documented 2,135 civilian deaths, an increase of more than 10 per cent compared to the same period the year before. This jump was attributed to an increase in insurgent attacks that often take the form of drive-by shootings or suicide bombings.
The UN also counted 183 assassinations in the first six months of the year, up 95 per cent compared to 2009.
And, of course, because journalists and human rights activists are under direct threat from the insurgents, many events go by under reported or not reported at all.
In its report, HRW said: “Journalists in the conflict areas face severe pressures. Insurgent groups use arson, kidnapping, and intimidation to try to stop reporting they see as unsympathetic.”
Since insurgents are able to increase their attacks even with the presence of 40 countries’ forces in Afghanistan, it is difficult to imagine the situation when the ANA and ANP with only their AK-47s, rocket launchers and Ford Ranger pickup trucks have to stand up against them.
The situation in Afghanistan is critical and people are infuriated by wide-scale corruption. The only reason people continue to support the government is because of the continued presence of foreign troops. To the average Afghan, the international community’s withdrawal from country means a repeat of the USA’s mistake of 1989 when it turned its back on Afghanistan for a decade. The West ignored the terrorist threat building up in Afghanistan, and only woke up to the dangers after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The current withdrawal means that once more the world will allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
While many countries argue for a withdrawal due to the financial pressure of a protracted war, it sends the message to Afghans that they are being left in the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
If it wasn’t for the international community’s presence, citizens’ patience with the government would have ended long ago due to its failure to deliver public services.
But with the withdrawal of foreign troops, the probability of a public revolt, similar to those in the Arab world, increases manifold. This creates a serious headache not only for the Afghan government but for the whole world.
Before leaving Afghanistan and the Afghans to their own devices, the international community should deliver at least some of the promises made at the Bonn Conference 10 years ago.
The Bonn Agreement stipulated that the international community should remain in the country until the ANA and ANP are fully operational, and a broad-based gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic government is established, and the judicial system is reformed.
To date, none of these promises have been kept. The United Nations has had to step in once again and underline the gaps between the goals and the achievements of the international community.
The countries that have achieved their goals should be allowed to withdraw from Afghanistan, while the countries that have been there for a decade but have done nothing should be pushed to work hard and achieve their set goals.
For example, the United Kingdom’s major task was to demolish the opium fields and bring the opium trade to an end. But today, Afghanistan still remains the world’s top opium producing nation. British troops that were in charge of foreign forces in Helmand failed to secure the province. Since the UK did not achieve its two major goals set by the NATO, it should be kept in the country until it succeeds in achieving at least one of the two goals.
Likewise, Italy’s role was to reform the judicial system. It should remain in Afghanistan until its task is completed.
If achievement of goals were the standard for withdrawal, Afghanistan’s situation would have been much better than it is now.
Withdrawal under current circumstances means leaving the Afghans to face mass murderers such as the Taliban. According to Taliban ideology, anyone working for the foreigners, or the Afghan government backed by foreigners, should be put to death.
In the past 10 years the majority of ordinary Afghans who were not involved in politics and drug smuggling like high-ranking government officials, had limited options for work: there was the government, or government-funded institutions, international organisations or internationally-funded institutions.
If the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan – which is a distinct possibility after foreign troops withdraw – the world will again see atrocities that people hoped belonged to the past. Sadly, it is likely this would be the new reality of Afghanistan.
This article was first published at www.tolonews.com.