With the recent attacks in Kabul, the Taliban demonstrated that it’s become too easy for them to strike the capital at will. The Taliban want to show ordinary Afghans how weak their government is, that it cannot protect them even in its stronghold. The Taliban definitely scored on that front.
In the past two years, Taliban fighters have made extraordinary advances against the Western-backed government in Kabul, taking cities in the north and in Helmand province in the south, among others. The Taliban insurgency gained strength across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of international troops from combat at the end of 2014. The Taliban are now stronger than at any point since they were driven from power by US-backed forces in 2001.
The Afghan government assured the world, and Afghans, that after NATO drew down, 350,000 plus strong Afghan security forces would be more than capable of holding back the Taliban.
It’s evident that’s not happening.
While the new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is consolidating power, the Taliban’s nemesis, the National Unity Government (NUG), is in disarray. This situation, along with several bold Taliban incursions throughout Afghanistan, shows the precarious state of affairs in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government is disappointing its people on various fronts. Let’s talk about few of them.
Overall, the security atmosphere across the country has deteriorated. Now, even the security condition of the capital resembles the rest of Afghanistan. It’s a hard truth that the ability of Afghan security forces to hold government-held territory, let alone retake insurgent-controlled areas, is unclear and security concerns for much of the population remain high.
Due to declining external financial aid, ongoing political uncertainty, and dysfunction of the government, the Afghan economy is in ruins. The Afghan economy has suffered from its lowest economic growth since 2001, and prospects for improvement in the short run appear weak. Domestic and foreign investments have also dramatically dropped.
More than 60 percent of the population in Afghanistan is below the age of 30, which is a boon for the economy. Unfortunately young and professionally qualified people who can act as fuel for economic growth are leaving the country in droves, undertaking perilous journeys with uncertain futures. But they bet on uncertainty over the chances of Afghanistan becoming a viable nation state any time soon. They are anxious about the future, with some feeling they have no choice other than to leave the country in search of security and economic opportunity elsewhere.
Corruption has long been a problem in Afghanistan but in recent times is has become more grave. Afghanistan ranks 174 of 176 in the Transparency International report,which makes it among the five most corrupt countries in the world.
Ordinary Afghans have become disconnected and alienated from the national government and the country’s other power arrangements. They are profoundly dissatisfied with Kabul’s inability and unwillingness to provide basic public services. They intensely resent the abuse of power, impunity, and lack of justice that have become entrenched in recent time. People feel that their country has a nominal democracy which is often really governed by power brokers.
To sustain the hard-earned gains made by the country after the removal of the hardliner Taliban regime in 2001, some concrete steps has to be taken by the current leaders.
Both Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah had to redefine the role of their government and had to initiate institute reforms that could strengthen public support and improve the chances of obtaining further international assistance.
Political leaders must not indulge in petty politics at such a crucial juncture. Afghan politicians must not let the country slide into chaos.
Most notably Mr. Hamid Karzai, as former president, too must shun political ambition and should act as a peace broker rather than another power center. The vibrant civil society that has emerged in the last decade too must realize that without a stable state, they cannot really function.
Instead of confronting the already fragile government, they too need to play a more constructive role. NUG must also act in the larger interests of the nation.
The political deficit within the country is a big concern and to effectively tackle it, the government needs to be more accountable and effective.
Ghani and Abdullah may have divergent views on everything else, but they agree on one thing: to continue the coalition government. The two must therefore sort out their differences, lest they miss out on a historic opportunity and the country remains in perpetual crisis.
Despite its flaws, the National Unity Government is Afghanistan’s best bet for political stability. Though formed through a political agreement and compromise both parties, the government represents millions of Afghan voters who dared to walk to ballot boxes in the face of Taliban threats.