Dec 2, 2009

'Finish the job' but not so hastily

Already published on CNN

After a long debate over increasing troops in Afghanistan, finally, President Obama said that he has decided to send around 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan. Now, deploying 30,000 troops to Afghanistan is a good idea but I’m doubtful that this will work as a long-term strategy to “finish the job.” A long-term strategy to mitigate the violence and end the war in Afghanistan is to train and equip the Afghan National Army.

No so long ago in July 2009, around 4,000 U.S. Marines alongside 650 Afghan police and soldiers took a massive operation called Khanjar (dagger) in Helmand in southern Afghanistan. It was supposed to wipe the Taliban out of the area but ultimately nothing remarkably happened. The Taliban mobilized their insurgency against international forces, Afghan Army and police in different areas and especially started moving to the northern Afghanistan. Northern Afghanistan, which has been quite peaceful since 2002, in the spring 2009 became insecure and unstable - hindering the peaceful life of every Afghan. More troops will be unhelpful unless there is an explicit strategy towards the future. If the Obama administration does not plan a clear strategy for the next four or five years, sending triple number of these troops will not be helpful.

One of the reasons for failing in southern Afghanistan is that after the NATO troops cleaned the area of Taliban, they didn’t stay in there and the ANA (Afghan National Army) was not capable to take the security. Ultimately, the Taliban returned to the area. Horribly, the poor villagers who helped NATO forces and the ANA were targeted or killed by the Taliban. Musa Qala is one of the districts in Helmand that the most intensive operation took place. In 2006, it was turned into a terror university for Taliban and deemed to be influenced by Al Qaeda. The British troops fought against the Taliban and cleaned the area but they left the region for elder leaders and villagers that promised keep their own security. But a few months later, the Taliban attacked those whom worked and helped NATO forces and some were beheaded by the Taliban.

Unfortunately, since then, the locals lost trust towards foreign forces. This created a lack of confidence between foreign forces and Afghan locals because the locals are 100 percent sure that foreign forces will leave the area sooner or later but the Taliban will be back. The locals do not have interest in Taliban but they have no choice, they are exposed from both sides and ultimately they prefer the Taliban. It will take time for the Afghan government and its supporters to reshuffle its relationship among locals but still it is possible to regain.

It is imperative to plan a clear strategy alongside of extra troops in Afghanistan. Specifically, if the United States and its allies help and train the Afghan National Army they will be able to handle the task well. For the last eight years this was not taken serious and less money spent on training the army and more money spent on foreign forces. On November 12, the ministry of defense said that if the world communities fulfill their commitment to train and equip the ANA, within four years they will be capable of taking responsibility of security across the country.

Since 2002, especially when the insurgency increased in the southern region, training ANA wasn’t so much in demand. But within the next four years, if the Afghan government with the support of the United States and its allies focus on increasing the capability of ANA, soon we will witness that they will triumph over the enemy. And finally, by increasing the ANA capabilities, the United States and its allies will be able to finish the job, but not so hastily.