By: Guadi Calvo / Source: Resumen Medio Oriente / The Dawn News / August 4, 2016. A few months away from the end of his second mandate, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is leaving behind, in Afghanistan, one of his most resounding failures. The return of the North American troops from the country was one of his biggest campaign promises. But now we know that the fulfilling of this promise won’t happen, maybe for decades.
The current approach is that not only the withdrawal is impossible, but also that more officials may be deployed to join the almost 9,000 that are still on the ground. By now, there were supposed to be less than 5,000.
The current Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, who is a technocrat trained in the West, has failed in his struggle against the Taliban, despite having a better image than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai (2004-2014), a Pashtun of the Popalzai clan, involved in cases of corruption. His half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was murdered by his drug trafficking partners while he was Chief of the Provincial Council of Kandahar.
Ghani, more discrete but inoperant to handle violence, took office as President in September 2014 and promised, among many other things, that key territories such as the Northern province of Kunduz wouldn’t be lost to the Taliban.
Kunduz is a key enclave, because it’s not only well-connected with Kabul (to the South) and with Mazar-e-Sharif (to the West) and that is the door to the Northern provinces. Besides, it’s less than a hundred kilometers away from the border with Tajikistan, which is where the routes with opium dealers are —the most important source of funds for the Taliban insurgence.
But the province of Kunduz is in a critical state. Its capital, a city with 300 thousand inhabitants, was militarily occupied last year by the Taliban, for the span of a few hours. In districts such as Dasht-e-Archi, Chahar Dara and the city of Kunduz, there are constant clashes between the Taliban and the army.
Ghani has lost in the last four months 5% of the territory that the federal forces control in cooperation with North Americans (which is 70% of the country’s area) and the presence of Daesh is increasingly notorious. Over the last eight months, in areas close to Kabul the population has stopped smoking and listening to music, which is a clear sign that the Taliban forces are present and they’re imposing their rules.
The Pentagon believes that the obvious incompetence of Afghan security forces makes it impossible for US troops to leave —another example of a US-promoted war that has become unmanageable. January 2017 used to be the deadline for US military presence in Afghanistan, but it has been postponed again, so it will last until after Obama has left the Oval Office. SO far in 2016, 1,600 civilians have died, according to the UN.
The fight for Khorasan
Last January, Daesh announced the creation of Wilayat Khorasan (Khorasan Province), a province that would join the caliphate of Caliph Ibrahim, leader of Daesh, which encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and all of Central Asia.
This has been flatly rejected by the Taliban leadership, which it is against the presence of Daesh in their territory, not so much due to philosophical or ideological rivalry, but because they opposed any kind of “foreign” presence in their territory and any outside intervention in “their” war against the invasor. This posture once led al-Qaeda to swear loyalty to the late Taliban founder, spiritual leader and chief: Mullah Omar, who held the title of Amir al-Mu’minin (“Commander of the Faithful”).
Daesh intends to conquer opium trade, because its main sponsors, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had to decrease the amount of resources destined to finance their war since January 2014, which adds to the copious losses they suffered due to Russian bombings on Syria.
The governor of Khorasan, who was appointed by Khalifa Ibrahim, is Hafez Said Jan, who in February 2015 had made a bayat or oath of loyalty to Daesh. Said Jan fought for the Taliban between 1996 and 2001, when he was detained after the North American invasion. He was imprisoned for 13 years in Guantanamo until 2014, when he was one of the five prisoners traded for US sergeant Bowe Bergdahl —whose behavior was highly questioned.
It was public that Said Jan, along with six other Pakistani Taliban commanders (some of whom had been imprisoned in Guantanamo), had separated from the Taliban to join Daesh in October 2015, due to profound differences with the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is the Pakistani branch of the movement and the responsible for the 2014 attack on the Peshawar school, where 150 people died —mostly children, whose fathers were military.
Clashes between Taliban and Daesh are increasingly frequent, particularly in the Afghan province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.
Both of the most recent attacks on Kabul, which Daesh claimed authorship of, can be interpreted as a message to the recently-elected Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada. The previous Mullah, Akhtar Mansour, was murdered by a drone last May.
The suicide attack that Daesh carried out last June against a bus that transported Nepali security forces that worked for the Canadian Embassy —causing a toll of at least 14 dead and 8 wounded— was also claimed by the Taliban, which increases the conflict between both organizations.
Three hours later, a few blocks away from that attack, the car of legislator Ataullah Faizani blew up in the Chel Siton area. This attack was only claimed by the Taliban.
Daesh claimed one of the bloodiest attacks in the Afghan capital: the attack on a peaceful demonstration by the Shiite Hazara minority, killing 80 and wounding almost 250.
The Shiite community suffers from constant violence and discrimination by the predominantly Sunni government.
After the 2001 North American invasion, according to official numbers, 150 thousand people have been killed. Other sources quote higher numbers. Due to the political goals of the US and its local allies, it’s in their best interest to minimize the situation. Some estimate that the successive wars in Afghanistan since 1990 to 2105 could have killed between 3 and 5 million people.