Kabul May Be Safe, But Afghanistan is Still Taliban Country
I know this is old news from the Afghan front- about a week old to be precise- but it is worth repeating; faced with the pressure of a coordinated Taliban attack in the capital city, the Afghan Security Forces successfully repelled the operation with the utmost professionalism. In the face of bomb-blasts and gun-shots, the ASF managed to beat back the Taliban in a few hours time without a significant amount of casualties.
Once the operation was over- and once the smoke cleared from the attack’s focal point (a cinema, a shopping center, government ministries and a western hotel)- only 12 people were killed in the firefight.
While the killing of 12 people is indeed dreadful and unfortunate, it is a low figure considering where the violence took place; Kabul is the most populous city in Afghanistan, and the commercial hub of the country’s pre-industrial economy.
I only wish that the Afghan army and police were this professional and efficient throughout the entire country.
Local security forces in Kabul may have been able to limit the destruction of the attack, but we have to consider the bigger picture; the Afghan Army and Police are still not able to battle insurgents in more remote areas.
Kabul is the political center of Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai and his cabinet ministers are located. Much of Afghanistan’s dismal economy is concentrated in Kabul, where mom-and-pop stores line the streets. So with so much at stake, it is obvious that Afghan Security Forces would respond quickly and efficiently; especially if a terror attack threatens to unravel the city’s limited progress.
The fact remains that although the ASF has a good grasp on the capital, it fails to run in a similar fashion across the country. Corruption runs rampant within its ranks; soldiers and policemen continue to defect in high numbers; most soldiers pledge allegiance to their tribes rather than to the country; and professional men are still very hard to come by (even with American assistance). In some areas- such as Helmand Province- Afghan villagers complain so much about the ASF that the Taliban is viewed as a better alternative. This is one of the main reasons why the Taliban Movement refuses to die.
So while the army and the police did respond effectively and limited the number of civilian and government casualties, most of Afghanistan does not have the luxury of a competent security force.
DEVELOPMENT: An Afghan Government panel released a new goal of expanding the ASF to 400,000 members, up from the current 191,000 (from ForeignPolicy.com’s “AfPak Channel.”)
**Comments courtesy of the Economist**
-Daniel R. DePetris