Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition

Source: International Crisis Group © 2014

This media release is also available in: Dari
To contain a growing, increasingly confident insurgency as NATO troops withdraw, Afghanistan needs continued international support, including military, and the new government in Kabul will need to reinvigorate the state’s commitment to the rule of law.

The latest International Crisis Group report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition, examines the security challenges in light of the international troop withdrawal, analysing in detail the situation in four provinces: Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar. The transfer of responsibility for security from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that began in 2013 initiated a new phase in the war, which is now primarily a contest between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and insurgent groups. The latter have failed to capture major towns and cities, and some areas are even more secure. But the positives are overshadowed by a general trend toward instability. Without substantial support for the ANSF, the risk of an escalation of insurgent violence will grow.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • The insurgents’ growing attacks in the absence of foreign troops stretch the capacities of the Afghan security forces. If vested with a strong electoral mandate, a post-election, post-transition government would have better prospects for reviving peace talks. The insurgents may also be willing to talk seriously after testing the state’s military strength once international forces have left.
  • Current plans to support Afghan forces are insufficient. Donors should go beyond commitments made at their Chicago 2012 summit and provide funding that ensures retaining approximately the current ANSF numbers until stability improves. Further support is needed to help with logistics, mobility, air support, intelligence, communications and specialist training.
  • The new Afghan president to be elected in June should sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. and a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO for a modest continued presence of foreign troops after the NATO mandate expires in December. The new government should also take urgent steps to reduce casualties among Afghan forces and strengthen anti-corruption measures to ensure that security personnel receive salaries, ammunition, fuel and other basic requirements.
  • Such immediate action on military issues will buy time for Afghanistan, with international support, to resolve challenges that will be decisive for the country’s long-term stability, including ethnic and social grievances, political inclusiveness, economic concerns, unemployment and weak rule of law.
“The job of fighting insurgents weighs more heavily than ever on Afghanistan’s security forces” says Graeme Smith, Afghanistan Senior Analyst. “Insurgents continue to enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan, splinter groups seek attention with spectacular attacks, and negotiations offer little hope in the short term. Afghanistan’s future has always been hard to predict, but uncertainty has never been greater”.

“Influential international actors, in particular the U.S., would prefer to curtail involvement in Afghanistan”, says Samina Ahmed, South Asia Project Director and Senior Asia Adviser. “But a diplomatic, economic and military investment at this stage of the conflict, before insurgents gain further momentum, could prevent a costly disaster”.