The Taliban has unleashed a string of attacks across Afghanistan this week, with the total number of dead now sitting at 21. Annual records show that attacks by militant insurgents in the troubled nation increase as the weather improves and areas bogged down in snow during the winter months open up, but this year the presidential election happens to fall around the same time. The terror group hopes to sow seeds of doubt about the abilities of established government and to destabilize the country even further before foreign forces withdraw at the end of this year. As terrorist activities increase, the question becomes what will happen when the Afghan forces are left to stand on their own? These attacks are a direct blow to perceptions of the independence of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
The ANA did not exist before 2002 and is still experiencing growing pains. The army is starved by a lack of funds, logistics and air support; soldiers themselves are just as starved as food supply becomes an issue. Certain problems are exacerbated by the ongoing civil war, like desertion and ethnic imbalance. In particular, the threat of double agents looms over joint patrols because some soldiers have turned on their comrades in arms, either for political or personal reasons. Many army posts are underequipped. One case was cited where a soldier was supposed to use a computer to gather information, only to point out to the reporter that the machine had no power cable even if electricity was available. The power goes in and out in almost all locations; basic utilities are not reliable.
The Afghan Air Force (AAF) was created in 2007, and the fleet capabilities are still limited compared to the support previously and currently received from the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). They have, at the least, begun to wean the ANA off of complete dependence on tactical air support from developed nations in their fight against Taliban attacks. The response numbers for medical emergencies are up and AAF solo flights are becoming the norm, which is good news for international plans to withdraw.
However, in the face of recent attacks, media outlets predict things are going to get worse before they get better. Recent violence claimed by Taliban representatives include shoot-outs at checkpoints that left a total of 12 people dead, a rocket attack in a market north of Kabul that killed two civilians and wounded four, and rocket attacks at the airport and at Bagram military base that caused no injuries. The most significant incursion occurred at a justice ministry building in Jalalabad. Insurgents and police carried out a four-hour gun battle that left the building in a sorry state. Ultimately, seven people were injured and five civilians died in the course of the unfortunate event, and upon retaking the building police discovered two dead attackers along with what was left of a third after he blew up his suicide vest.
It is unclear at this point if there were any clues overlooked by forces still at work against the Taliban in the region. With the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s announcement regarding their plans to perform terrorist attacks of “back-breaking martyrdom,” civilians are left to wonder if it is possible to stop the hydra of social upheaval the IEA represents. If even the combined forces of Britain, the U.S. and Italy were unable to squash the Taliban attacks, it is illogical to believe the undermanned divisions of the Afghan National Security Forces will be able to do it independently before the close of 2014. After foreign forces pull out, the world will wait to see how the nation handles its own.
By Aliya Tyus-Barnwell