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A Hope in Despair: The Change of Course for Afghanistan

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We must first have peace, stabilize peace, make it certain, make it stand on its own feet and then go for justice. But if we can have justice while we are seeking peace we'll go for that too. – Hamid Karzai, Former President of Afghanistan [In an interview with the BBC, 2001]

world this week Afghanistan has been the centre of a turmoil which does not seems to end and due to increasing militancy the region is considered as one of the world’s most tragic humanitarian crisis that exists from day today. Afghanistan is a home for over 25% of the refugee population; almost millions have reinstated themselves back in the society, while 2.5 Million refugees are residing on the borders of Pakistan or Iran. Around 620,000 are displaced within Afghanistan. Many experts still believe that terror in Afghanistan roared after 9/11 (although true to some extent). It is not new for Afghanistan to be of interest, as a matter of fact, it has been of foreign interest for long. Not long ago, the communist party of Afghanistan (largely supported by the Soviet) came into power in the early 1970’s, instigating numerous revolts, while it battled hard to normalise the conditions socially. The deteriorating civil conditions followed by an unstable party triggered the Soviet incursion in the second half of 1979. Several villages were being bombed and thousands were killed, murdered, tortured. However the frustration against the invasion grew and so did the new breed of fighters “The Mujahedeen” who were then secretly funded by the Saudis and the US. The Soviet, badly defeated, left Afghanistan in 1989. Three years later, the then ruling communist government collapsed. ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) is a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) mandate that carries out security mission in Afghanistan, however indirectly. The mandate was initiated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in December 2001 under the Resolution 1368, as per the Bonn Agreement. The primary function of the mandate was to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and to assist the government in its foundation and reestablishment although same factions of the ISAF also fought the “Afghanistan War” against the insurgent groups. Initially on Kabul their jurisdiction was limited to Kabul but with the approval of United Nations Security Council, their mission expanded to a set of four phases. After serving for over 13 years, the ISAF mandate expired in December 2014. With the approval from United Nations Security Council, the ISAF mandate was divided into four key phases: Phase 1 – Lasted till October 2004 The United Nations Security Council passed the resolution 1510 on 13th October 2003, which gave an opportunity to the ISAF to support the then Government of Afghanistan extensively beyond the borders of Kabul. A few months later, the NATO tasked General James Jones to commence the extension of the ISAF by attaining command of the German administrated Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the city of Kunduz. Six months later, in the NATO summit, policy and military leaders announced that the organization will create a PRT in Mazar – e – Sharif, Feyzabad, Meymana and Baghlan, which were all situated in Northern Afghanistan. This initialisation was completed in October 2004, which also marked the completion of Phase 1 process. Phase 2 – To the West – Lasted till September 2005 On 10th February 2005, NATO decided to enlarge the ISAF cooperation forces to the west Afghanistan. The expansion began on 31st August 2006 with ISAF leading the forces of two PRTs in the regions of Farah and Herat and also of a forward support base in Herat. By the end of August, 2 additional divisions of PRT’s became operational in the West. With stations at Chagcharan (the capital of Ghor province) and Qala-e-Naw (the capital of Baghdis), PRT’s began their operations. Following the expansion, the quantity of PRT’s were in total 9 (including the northern and western areas) administering security aid to half of Afghanistan’s territory. Phase 3 – To the South – Lasted till July 2006   Subjecting to the extension on the operations, NATO officials met on October 2006 in Brussels. The meeting was also preceded by Allied Foreign Ministers and a guideline of the entire operation in Afghanistan was introduced. The first step was to expand the operations in the Southern Afghanistan initiating the third stage process. This step began on 31st July 2006 when the ISAF finally took the Southern Afghanistan from US driven Coalition Forces and enlarging its base of operations in six more provinces Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul- and commanding over 4 more PRT’s. By now the ISAF had a total of 13 PRTs in the Northern, Southern and Western Regions of Afghanistan and had covered almost 75% of Afghan territory. Phase 4 – To the East and remaining parts of the NationLasted till October 2006   On October 5th, the ISAF took over the entire Eastern part of Afghanistan from the US driven Coalition forces. Their final days of operations in the region were quite extensive. Resolute Support Mission Although ISAF has rounded up their operations and packed up their bags, leaving few combat trainers, military advisers and humanitarian assistance force in charge to train the “less effective” Afghanistan security forces and few additional assistance forces of the NATO which will now be operating under the NATO led mission named “Resolute Support”. The aid will be directed through Afghan Ministers, along with higher command level of the Afghanistan security forces. However, this co operational pan has been working from April 2014; small changes will be made depending upon the situation. Around 12000 staff of the NATO will be assisted by additional forces of the Member Nations. This mission shall be operated from the central point of Kabul including Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The key purpose of the mission will include, as stated by NATO:
  • Supporting planning, programming and budgeting;
  • Assuring transparency, accountability and oversight;
  • Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance;
  • Supporting the establishment and sustainment of such processes as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.”
Previous attempts to resolve the issues It is not the first time that a military organization has come up with a solution; many tries have been made before. NATO, UN along with the UNAMA, with have supported the government of Afghanistan have in establishing reconciliation efforts in the regions. The Kabul Process, which was established during the London conference of 2009, was the initial point for transitioning international military personnel’s to the government of Afghanistan. The process is being by the UNAMA today. To support the military efforts in the region and counter insurgencies, US President Barack Obama expanded the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and eliminated the known threats of Islamic militants, before it occurred. The UAV had carried out over 270 strikes in Pakistan alone. Consequences too were faced by the military and ISAF as anti UAV movements began in the region, thus supporting the Taliban. The number of troops had also been tripled as compared to the NATO data of 2011, despite this, many of the training facilities have failed to counteract the several insurgency attacks. The key solution at hand depends upon the availability of military weapons or vehicles, or readily available troops to train the inadequate Afghan National Army that now holds the responsibility of defending the civilians. Possible Solutions Peace talks No long ago Pakistan tried to establish peace with the Taliban in the region. The main purpose was to normalise the situation after the departure of coalition forces. In an effort to normalise the situation Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a prominent member of the Taliban was released by Pakistan authorities. The Government of Afghanistan saw this as a major step in creating peace with the Taliban. However the public wasn’t happy at all with this step, as Baradar was one of the founding members of the Taliban. Pakistan’s hidden agenda was yet again revealed through this step. However I would say “that these peace talks will converge in a positive direction” is a statement with more probability than a possibility. Time is all the nation needs. Building One Nation With a history of conflict in the region, Afghanistan needs more time and financial aid. Most the infrastructure you see today was built by the Soviets during their expansion. Moreover, most of the buildings were destroyed due to insurgencies and war. In order to stabilize the development in the region, a plan has to be designed. The elections that took place in 2014 began a new debate of post electoral disputes and electoral reforms in the region. The afghan people should be represented in the executive and legislative reforms. Political Solutions rather than Military Solutions   The problem is just not with the political inconsistency, military inconsistency is also an issue. Hence a strong political will is absolute necessary. The need to develop the government that is competent to resolve issues is a must also keeping in the mind that the government should tackle terrorism and militancy at home. People desire only peace and security along with the right to freedom of speech and expression followed by self determination on the based on their own social, cultural, and religious values. It is also important that the government shall assist in fields of healthcare, education, and social services and ensure development as a whole. Bibliography
  1. "Afghanistan Turmoil." Afghanistan Turmoil. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <http://www.trust.org/spotlight/Afghan-turmoil/?tab=background>.
  2. "About ISAF | ISAF - International Security Assistance Force." About ISAF | ISAF - International Security Assistance Force. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <http://www.isaf.nato.int/news/3.html>.
  3. "United Nations and Afghanistan." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <http://www.un.org/News/dh/latest/afghan/un-afghan-history.shtml#scres>.
  4. "Establishing Stability in Afghanistan." - Policy. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014. <https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/establishing-stability-in-afghanistan>.
  5. "NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan." NATO. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_113694.htm>.
  6. "Afghanistan: Conflict Profile." Insight on Conflict. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014. <http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/afghanistan/conflict-profile/#26>.
  7. "UNAMA Frequently Asked Questions." Frequently Asked Questions. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. <http://unama.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=12269&language=en-US>.
  8. "The Kabul Process - Background." The Kabul Process - Background. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. <http://www.thekabulprocess.gov.af/index.php/clusters--npps/background>.
  9. "NATO and Afghanistan." NATO. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_8189.htm>.
  10.  http://www.un.org/News/dh/latest/afghan/afghan-agree.htm
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About Sanjay Trivedi

Sanjay Trivedi is honorary editor of Asia Times. He is senior Indian Journalist having vast experience of 25 years. He worked in Janmabhoomi, Vyapar, Divya Bhaskar etc. newspapers and TV9 Channel as well as www.news4education.com. He also served as Media Officer in Gujarat Technological University.

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