Kabul is politically crippled while the Taliban is fiercely progressing on several fronts.
If Afghanistan falls, it will represent a new terrorist problem to the world. A few months ago, American generals proposed to American President Donald Trump to increase the number of American troops there by at least 5,000. It seems he refused because he thinks all the old approaches have failed especially that the US spent around $718 billion on a war that it continues to lose. The current number of American troops there is 8,400 while in 2011, it was 100,000.
Afghanistan suffers from Taliban’s vigorous return. Meanwhile, the government feels it is weak. Kabul is slowly losing its control over the country. The Afghan authorities control 52% of territories. Two years ago they controlled 72%. The state has lost control over 15% of its territories since September 2016 and until March 2017. Meanwhile, other provinces suffer under Taliban’s rule where around 500 soldiers get killed each week. All this indicates that the government is on its path towards a dead end in Kabul as security and developmental challenges confronting the country are tough and they require coordinated efforts and state funds. However, there is no hope on the horizon.
Ashraf Ghani’s government and Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, who were presidential rivals in 2014, control the country’s political scene. They decided to join a national unity government to avoid a short-term political crisis but instead they sowed the seeds of a long-term crisis by undermining the fragile Afghan constitution. Corrupt military groups that only care about protecting their interests have controlled politics in Afghanistan since 2014. It’s a sick environment. There’s little hope that the situation may change with the parliamentary elections next year or with the presidential elections in 2019. Considering the state’s decreased control over all provinces, there may not even be a state by the election date in 2018.
Security, military and presidential meetings are being held in Washington to discuss Afghanistan and aim to convince Trump to maintain American activity there. They think this is the more secure option even if it’s not the most efficient. Like North Korea, Afghanistan represents a security problem that’s impossible to solve and Trump’s administration must find a way out of it. An American source told me: “The president may choose the safe way and commit to the common logic of maintaining the money flow and increasing the number of American troops. The best he can expect out of this approach is to prevent the Afghan state from losing more territories. However this will not divert the path of the civil war and it will not defeat Taliban. Afghanistan represents clear failure of American policy. Trump does not want to bear its responsibility as in the end he’s a president from outside the institution and he proposed himself as someone who wants to improve American policy on the local and foreign levels. Therefore, it will be no surprise if Afghanistan is the matter which raises disagreements between him and the generals he commends.”
American media reports said the president proposed dismissing John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, and argued that the US should get a share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. The Wall Street Journal reported that the American administration is looking into reducing US’ commitment and decreasing losses “in the longest war in America’s history.” However, decreasing American financial and military support to Kabul may make the end of the civil government near as the country will further plunge in civil war and foreign sponsors, like Pakistan, India, Russia and the US, may interfere in favor of their proxies. Afghanistan’s situation will be similar to the Syrian civil war with two possibilities: permanent deadlock as a result of conflicts which will lead to sectarian clashes or Taliban’s complete victory and resumption of its Islamic-like governance which it has adopted before 2001.
Is Afghanistan a failed state? Yes. Is it a failed cause that must be abandoned? No.Huda al-Husseini