Afghanistan: road with options

Published: January 23, 2019

Violence in Afghanistan continues in the midst of peace talks. An attack on Jan 21 on a military compound in Maidan Shahar, central Afghanistan, killed more than 100 members of the Afghan security forces. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Spokesman for the Taliban Zabiullah Mujahid said they had killed 190 people in the complex attack. The attack took place at a time when the US and the Taliban resumed their talks in Doha, Qatar, aimed at ending the stalemate over participation of the Afghan government in negotiations for a political settlement of the conflict. The recent spate of attacks on Afghan security forces shows that the Taliban want to participate in peace negotiations from a position of strength. Their aim is also to weaken the morale of their adversaries — the Afghan government and its security forces.

As things show there is nervousness in the camp of the Afghan government as government officials have given different casualty figures so much so that some government officials have even admitted that the government tries to hide the actual casualty figures to maintain the morale of the security forces. In recent years, the Afghan government has stopped releasing casualty figures. Last year Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said 28,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers had been killed since 2015, breaking longstanding suppression on casualty figures. In such a situation when the government itself is saying it is concealing the actual casualty figures it is difficult to tell how the sustained Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces and Afghan government installations and the resultant killings are impacting the government and its security forces. A few years ago there were reports that attacks by the Taliban had caused noticeable desertions from the Afghan armed forces. Desertions were caused also by long delays in payment of salaries. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2019.

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