This Week In Afghanistan 29 Jan
Over the last week Afghanistan saw a series of incidents and terrorist attacks targeting civilians, Afghan police and foreign military. This comes only to highlight that the insurgency in the country still poses serious challenge to international reconstruction efforts. Locals and foreigners alike share security risks on a daily basis, which makes business operations costly and challenging.
Last weekend at least 17 people were killed in a series of 4 attacks around the country. Late on Sunday, 24 Jan, the military airbase in Kandahar was attacked with rockets, injuring a number of military personnel. The Taliban claimed the target was the visiting Bulgarian defense minister Nikolay Mladenov, who was on base then. On the following day, three explosives were found attached under a vehicle entering the base and security threat remained high.
On Monday, 25 Jan, four policemen were found dead near a checkpoint in Lashar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The tense situation in the south was exacerbated by heavy gun fire between police and armed militants later this week. Helmand is the largest province in the country and is still controlled by the Taliban. British and NATO forces are currently preparing an offensive to assert Kabul’s control over the area.
At the same time the UN has taken several moderate Taliban leaders off its black list and called for more reconciliation efforts. This news came a day before Afghan President Karzai announced a strategy for reintegrating insurgents into Afghan society. The strategy is currently discussed at a 60-nation conference taking place in London and is strongly backed by the international community. Earlier this week, Japan and Britain have agreed to head an international fund, expected to total up to $500 million over the next five years, as part of a broad plan to help lure Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with the promise of jobs and protection against retaliation.
Meanwhile Al Jazeera released a video revealing that secret talks with Taliban leaders took place on the Maldives last week.
The efforts of the international community indicate a new approach to the situation in Afghanistan, but their long-term effects remain a mystery. One tribe however has already pledged to fight against the Taliban in return to US financial aid. This however, may turn out to be another way of sponsoring local warlords’ militias, which are hard to track and often switch sides in the conflict.
Despite the new diplomacy launched to pacify the country, the situation in Afghanistan remains difficult both in distant provinces and in Kabul. On 27 Jan a car bomb hit the entrance of US Camp Phoenix in the capital, injuring eight soldiers and six civilian bystanders. Camp Phoenix is located at the busiest road in Kabul, leading eastwards to a number of military facilities. Jalalabad road is the eastern gateway to the Afghan capital, where busy traffic and terrorist activity slows down deliveries coming from the Karachi and Peshawar. Two days later, a cleric was mistaken for a hostile and shot dead in his car while passing near the base.
While we are still expecting news from the conference in London, it is already known that parliamentary elections will be postponed. Initially planned for May 22, they will take place in September due to lack of funding. The Independent Election Commission (whose head is appointed by the President) announced that it lacks 50 million USD out of the planned 120 million USD budget.