Kanduz Fall: Taliban shatter US claims of stability in Afghanistan




Taliban fighters on Monday battled their way into the center of Kunduz, a city in northern Afghanistan, and seized the provincial governor’s office in one of the militant group’s biggest territorial gains in 14 years, witnesses and officials said.In a major setback for Afghan forces, who abandoned a provincial headquarters for the first time since 2001, the insurgents raised their white banner over the central square and freed hundreds of fellow militants from the local jail.The stunning assault came a day before President Ashraf Ghani’s unity government marks its first anniversary, and will further complicate efforts to resume stalled peace negotiations.It was the second time this year that the hardline Islamist movement has besieged Kunduz, a city defended by Afghan forces battling largely without NATO’s support after it withdrew most of its troops last year. The fall of Kunduz, a major gateway to northern neighbouring countries like Tajikistan, is likely to have repercussions for the spread of the insurgency and the morale of the Afghan security forces. Mr. Ghani, who completes one year in office on Tuesday, has found himself under significant public pressure, as his national unity government has remained stagnant on almost every front. This incident will also set his claims straight of Taliban attacks originating from Pakistan. Undoubtedly he cannot blame Pakistan anymore, now that the fall of Kunduz is very much a clear indication of his failure to protect the sovereignty of his State against the very tangible threat of the Taliban. After the seizure of Kunduz, Afghanistan seems to be drifting towards more chaos and its citizens are feeling insecure. The Taliban have been fighting since the US dislodged them from power during their hunt for Osama bin Laden. After taking office, a comprehensive review of policy led the Obama administration to announce the withdrawal of the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan by end 2014. About 10,000 residual US troops are still in the country but their role is limited to advising and training the Afghan forces. After the pullout of the US-led NATO troops, the situation has become grimmer. It was an ill thought through decision on the part of the US government to cut and run, leaving Afghanistan in the lurch. On the other hand, there are inherent problems that the Afghan forces have been facing for long. The Afghan troops are not a highly motivated force that can fight off an enemy that is more organised and fighting with conviction. Besides, the precarious state of the economy does not allow the government to meet all the necessary expenses of the troops, which is a major cause of their demoralisation. This incident also shows that despite the internal divisions in the Taliban after the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban remain a force to be reckoned with. New leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour appears to have overcome the bumpy start. The army and the police by its retreat yesterday have really shown that there are question marks over the government’s ability to impose its writ in Kunduz, at least in the short term. There is chaos all over the country and the Taliban are benefiting from this situation. If they were not stopped now, the situation will be back to square one. The world powers, especially the US, have to play their role to avert this looming disaster. The US has invested a lot of money in tackling the threat of the Taliban. Besides monetary expenses, thousands of people have lost their lives during the one and a half decades long war. All this will go waste if the US does not come to the rescue of Afghanistan that has been virtually abandoned at this critical time.