Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Kabul May Be Safe, But Afghanistan is Still Taliban Country

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia by Dan on January 24, 2010

ASF response to Kabul attack a glimmer of hope

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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

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12 Responses

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  1. jomellon said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Does anyone believe Karzai and his regime have a future?

    Prediction: In 2 – 3 years the US and friends will cut and runs, leaving another enormous mess behind.

    Maybe they could persuade the Russians to try again – to keep the Chinese out. (That is the way the idiots who plan these ‘strategies’ think.)

  2. Quite Like Frank said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    All respect to the Afghan military, anti-terror and intelligence units, this scale of coordinated attack is not what we want to see. Simply fortifying the castle walls won’t relieve the region from this Qutbist disease. A stronger administration less politically and avarice driven, and more dedicated to a ‘free’ Afghanistan for all the days to come, is needed. Karzai needs to go…

  3. caribis said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    While people expressing themselves with firearms and bombs is obviously a failure of government, do the math. Several armed men using bombs and automatic and semi-automatic weapons were unable to kill even a dozen people (the 12 dead include attackers.) Yes they injured seventy some people, but what is the average for one mentally ill guy with a gun in a Western city. These are supposed to be trained militants on the verge of bringing down the illegitimate Karzai regime. They had an ambulance full of explosives. I tend to agree with the Economist this time. This was a combination of a populace that knows how to react in a violent emergency, a competent security force and a not so competent group of insurgents.

  4. Vinny K said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    No one in his right mind can believe that streets of Kabul are the place where Islamic terrorist can be defeated. These can be destroyed only in-

    1) GHQ headquarters of Pakistn Army- Which has created a alphabet soup of terror fronts, where it can plausibly deny the parentage of it’s grandchildren.
    2) Pakistani Madrassas funded with Saudi cash- Which have been preparing the cannon fodder for war.
    3) Western capitals- Which have made a habit of using taxpayers money to fund both terrorists (by funding Pakistani establishment & army) and anti-terror operations (by sending it’s citizens to dies).
    4) China- Convince CCP that bilndly funding their all waether friend will not ensure that taliban will not turn their way. After having hobbled last two superpowers, USSR & USA; who do you think will be in their crosshairs! This time armed with a Pakistani Nuke, based on Chinese design, tested & perfected by Chinese exploding somewhere in Shangahi…..

  5. Forlornehope said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    The New York Times reports today that a single gunman in Virginia killed eight people before finally surrendering to police. It appears that American productivity continues to excel. More seriously the maximum impact that the Taliban is capable of achieving in Kabul is about the same as an everyday nutter in the USA. That hardly seems as if the Taliban are winning.

  6. Felipe Coelho said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Misinterpreting any past war is a big mistake. The talk of a “stab on the back of a victorious army” perpetrated by the liberals or the press after Tet is not at all convincing, it was already used in Germany after the WWI defeat. The Vietcong was no ghost created by a press, full of liberals and peaceniks! The Vietnamese communists and the American society were fighting distinct wars: the former were prepared to suffer huge losses in order to show that they were a formidable enemy, with a strong nationalist ideology, while the later did not consider worthwhile or ethical sending to death a few hundred thousand in order to support unpopular Vietnamese dictators. Even the American help was used by the Vietcong to depict the Saigon government as a puppet, it was turned the other way round like in Oriental martial arts. The Vietcong achieved its objective, both politically and militarily.

    Afghanistan (or Haiti or the Somali coast pirates) is a much more complex case, America/NATO has no single enemy. The only solution is a conference with all nations bordering Afghanistan, maybe with Turkey, Russia, the USA, the EU, and India as observers. Afghanistan must have an elected government, and neighboring countries, as the main beneficiaries of Afghan stability, must send troops to prop up such Afghan government.

    NATO troops of countries supporting Israel are an asset for any terrorist, warlord or political demagogue, they must not be there in Afghanistan, they are self-defeating! Troops of countries with Islamic majorities (like Pakistan, the former Soviet stans, Turkey, Iran, and Azherbaidjan) will certainly be less effective militarily but much more effective politically. That is the “winning hearts and minds” lesson of Vietnam, which I am afraid the American strategists did not understand.

  7. generated3350423 said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    The attack may have failed, but it is sobering to realize that there are plenty more young men ready to take their place and many more ready to begin their “education” -an education that will lead them to decide that such a fate is noble.

  8. old Fruit said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Why ar the US and NATO soldiers fighting here at all.

    Overall the USA fights here because

    1.. A more stable area will contain the Nuclear arms that the Pakistanis possess.

    2.. It will mean that they may eventually capture the Al Queda dogs
    and stop Afghanistan failing.

    Neither is possible – all because USA fought a war on TWo fronts (Iraq and Afghanistan) and most it’s resources are in Iraq.
    Plus 8 years later it has lost the will to win.
    Why not be Machiavellian , and get the Pakistani’s to continue fighting the TAliban to the point of bitterness , so that it keeps the Pakistani’s occupied for the next 20 years.
    As far as failed states are concerned , this should have been thought about 40 years , since it is too late now.

    There are just too many failed states in ISLAMIA for American resources.

    As my teacher used to say to me – when you have not succeded after trying over and over again some 2-3 times , it is time to use your Brain and look for a new strategy.
    8 years is more then 2-3 times

    • old Fruit said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:15 pm

      The other point I need to make here is that the US is acting like the Owrld’s Policeman.
      Why not use it’s money to stop the terrorists before they get into the USA , why not stop supporting countries like Israel , which itself does not care for Peace (and all the compromises it involves)
      why not look for a serious alternative to oil .

      AND – WHY NOT let the Iranians and the Chinese as well as the Indians look after the problems in teir area.

      Give a NUKE to the Taliban , and it will bring the Chinese and the Iranians into line – That IS THE ONLY WAY these people will see the danger of Terrorist ISlamia

      • Bharat pp said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:15 pm

        Gee old Fruit !

        Radical new thinking –
        I doubt that it would ever happen !

        BUT I am hoping that one day all the Taliban sympathetisers are given a Chance to live in Talibinistan

        A THOUGHT that I would like to put into everyone’s mind here. This incidence is like the part of TET offensive in Vietnam.
        The TET offensive in itself was considered to be failure on the part of the Vietcong ( the North Vietnamese).

        BUT— THAT IS WHERE THE USA public lost it’s will to keep fighting.

        ALSO keep in mind that the TET offensive was fought by the Americans – not the South Vietnamese , whereas here the Afghani’s faught this battle.

        That is where the Taliban have failed , because it has not affected the US forces. And the Talibs have very limited resources.

  9. Bruno Parga said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    It’d be great if the US would just send in a reasonable amount of extra troops… oh wait, that’s what’s being done. On the other hand, they’ll be gone by late 2011, so Afghanistan will be in as big a mess as it was before 2001.

    Only this time it’ll be worse.

  10. anan said, on January 25, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Felipe Coelho said, on January 24, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) defeated the Vietcong in 1968 and 1969. After 1969, it was a conventional war between the ARVN and NVA (North Vietnamese Army.)

    The ARVN defeated the NVA in 1972; because America funded them.

    When America refused to fund them; the ARVN was defeated by the NVA in 1975. Had the ARVN continued to receive funding, they very likely would have won the Vietnam.

    On Afghanistan; the ANSF hasn’t recieved sufficient international funding and training. If the ANSF recieve funding and training; why can’t it defeat the Taliban?

    The ANA currently has 18 thousands recruits in boot camp for 13 weeks (8 weeks + 5 weeks regional unit fielding) each. The ANA trains 1400 privates a week. Why can’t the ANA win?


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