With every passing day there is growing perception in international media that President Obama’s Afghan strategy is not working. American public opinion in favour of Afghan war is rapidly eroding and majority of Americans think that situation is worsening in Afghanistan. A number of basic goals were set in Counter Insurgency Strategy (COIN) by President Obama almost a year ago. But none of them is near to be achieved.
The first goal was to stabilize Afghanistan while pursuing a more effective civilian strategy. In it the main focus was on protecting major Afghan population centers along with agricultural areas and transportation routes. It was said that operations will be conducted in this way so that they would result in minimum causalities. But NATO troops have failed to make even a little progress on this front. The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan has jumped 31 per cent. More than 1250 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2010 and amongst them 176 were children.
The UN figures released recently for civilian causalities were the worst in nine years of war. Afghan people are increasingly squirming at present sorry state of affairs in their country. This has gone a long way in alienate the Afghan population. Moreover the Taliban enter into villages at night and brutalize them for not backing the Afghan government.
The surge strategy just opened a new and more gruesome chapter of atrocities in the war-ravaged country. With mounting causalities among the coalition forces, the morale of troops and opposition to protracted war is mounting. In July alone almost 66 soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Now even US soldiers have started talking of futility of way, what to talk of other NATO troops.
The second goal was to make headways in tackle corruption and improve governance. But the ground realities portray a very pathetic scenario. A recent survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) shows a sharp increase in corruption in Afghan society. Every year Afghan people pay millions of dollars in bribe. Even to receive basic public services more than 28 per cent of Afghan people have to pay a bribe that in times of peace should have been easily accessible. Afghan people who have seen life at its most pitiless are suffering from twin handicaps of poverty and militancy for the last three decades.
The survey further indicates that the most impoverished portion of Afghan society appears to be the worst victim of this evil of corruption. Almost 51 per cent of people think that Karzai government is not serious in doing away with this evil and Justice and security have been identified as the most corrupt sectors in Afghanistan. The gross negligence and failure to monitor process of disbursing aid has led to huge sums of money disappearing into the pockets of the powerful people, rather than being used for development purposes like building the roads, schools and hospitals.
The third goal was to outreach to moderate factions of militants that fight alongside the Taliban and to persuade them to lay down their arms in exchange for a role in local governance and other monetary incentives. But the reality that cannot be overlooked is that militants in some parts of Afghanistan who had laid down their weapons and renounced violence in response to government offers of aid and amnesty were treated with much humiliation. So they are rejoining the insurgents because of failure of Karzai government to deliver on its promises.
Nur Gul, an influential Taliban commander, who had surrendered with his armed men, last year, has now again joined the Taliban’s ranks because he was mistreated at the hands of Afghan security forces instead of bringing in mainstream political system and giving money appropriated in 2010 defense bill to found a Taliban reintegration program.
It was said that Afghan National Army (ANA) will be developed to coup with challenges. But thus far poorly equipped soldiers have not even necessary war instruments like planes, helicopters, heavy weapons, tanks and night vision goggles. The combat efficacy of the Afghan National Army (ANA) remains nothing more than mere show. A major military campaign in Afghan city of Marjah in Helmand province has already failed and military operation in Kandahar has been postponed because of overwhelming chances of failure.
The level of mistrust between foreign troops and Afghan army can be analyzed from the fact that American soldiers in Kandahar report that, for their own security, they will not tell their ANA colleagues when and where they are going to patrol.
Obama’s Afghan strategy also talked of having a more robust partnership with Pakistan. President Obama had said, “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target these groups that will threaten our countries. But military relationship between Pakistan and the US remain very fragile and characterized by deep-seated mistrust. Drone attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan remain a major irritant in the mutual relations of Pakistan and the US.
The US invasion of Afghanistan had two objectives i.e., to deny Al-Qaeda safe heavens in Afghanistan and to set up a moderate form of government by replacing the Taliban regime. Al-Qaeda has settled in other countries of the world and still planning attacks on the US land. The Taliban are fearlessly dispensing their brutal form of government in many provinces of Afghanistan and executing people openly in the presence of more than one hundred thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan.
In the nutshell it stands out crystal clear that Obama’s Afghan strategy is failing on every front. President Obama, a dazzling orator and incisive thinker, failed to appreciate the local sensitivities of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s resistance is getting momentum by the day and slowly and gradually Taliban are establishing unchallenged control over Afghan provinces. There are clear dissensions between the Obama administration and US military commanders as to the time of withdrawal. Moreover US failure to make progress against the Taliban has led many war-weary Afghans to believe that the Taliban will once again rule them.
Despite the arrival of thousands of more fresh troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban are on the offensive. American policy makers need to stop burying their heads in the sand and put an end to nine years of trials and tribulations