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Afghanistan: Internal, External Restructuring Highlight Ongoing Security Challenges
This week’s snapshot focuses on developments in Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on 29JAN published a quarterly report highlighting the “fragile and worsening” condition of the economy and security climate in the country. On 28JAN, Lt. General John Nicholson Jr., President Barack Obama’s choice to become the new commander of US forces in Afghanistan, agreed with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who described the security situation in Afghanistan as “deteriorating.” Meanwhile, the Afghan army stretched the recruitment age, the Quarilateral Coordination Group (QCG) is set to meet with the Taliban as early as this month, and Afghanistan chief executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah paid a visit to New Delhi to assure Indian leaders that they’re kept in the loop as the prospective talks draw closer.
News summary of events during the week of 01FEB – 07FEB
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about developments in Afghanistan
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding developments in Afghanistan
Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings
“And so the question is whether we, the United States, are prepared to stand by with Afghanistan for that long and whether the Afghans will have the resolve. So it’s really important that the military and the police fight as hard as they can, because the weaker they fight, the more they defect, the more intimidated they are, the more brain drain that flows from Afghanistan, the stronger the Taliban is viewed and the more intransigent they will be in the negotiations. Now the negotiations will be very much about the military battlefield as much as they will about what’s happening at the table for a long time.”
Christopher Paul, Senior Social Scientist, Professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School and Colin P. Clarke, Associate Political Scientist at RAND
“One possible benefit of a growing Islamic State presence could be a warming of relations between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, which would have a shared interest in preventing the group from gaining a foothold in the region. This rapprochement was initially spurred by the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014, after which the Pakistani government reevaluated its stance toward certain militant groups operating on its soil.”
Zubair Iqbal, scholar-in-residence, Middle East Institute
“Embezzlement and bribery have become institutionalized — more than in the past — partly because of the huge amount of funding and the weak management.”
Marvin Weinbaum, scholar-in-residence, Middle East Institute
“Without the international community’s willingness to continue to invest in the nonmilitary, there is no Afghan economy, and some argue no Afghan security.”
Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS
“It is striking that aside from one now-dated German map, the only meaningful metrics on the fighting come from the maps provided by the Institute for the Study of War and the United Nations, and the only meaningful trend data on the scale and intensity of the fighting consist of the UN casualty data.”
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to developments in Afghanistan
1. Taliban suicide bomber kills 20 police outside Kabul base
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 01 February 2016
Kabul, Feb 1, 2016 (AFP) – At least 20 policemen were killed Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber struck a police base in Kabul Monday, just days before a fresh round of international talks aimed at reviving dialogue with the Islamist group.
Scores of people were also wounded as the attacker blew himself up in a queue of police officers waiting to enter the base, leaving several bodies and charred debris strewn around the area.
2. U.S. airstrikes kill 29 militants, destroy IS radio in Afghanistan
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 02 February 2016
JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) — About 29 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed and a radio station belonging to the militant group was destroyed after U.S.-led coalition forces carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar overnight, sources said on Tuesday.
“The foreign forces conducted four air raids against IS positions in Momand Dara locality of Achin district Monday night, killing 29 IS militants and destroying an IS radio station,” the provincial government said in a statement.
3. General says poor leadership is biggest problem for Afghans
Media: Associated Press
Date: 02 February 2016
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top American commander in Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday that most of the problems facing the Afghan security forces stem from poor leadership.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. John F. Campbell said the Afghan National Army has replaced 92 general officers, including a high-level commander in volatile Helmand province.
4. Stretched by its fight against Taliban, Afghan army raises recruitment age
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Tim Craig
Date: 04 February 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan army, struggling to defeat a resilient Taliban, has begun enlisting men as old as 40 to replenish a force thinned by casualties, defections and attrition.
The decision to raise the age limit for recruits to 40 from 35 was quietly made last month in response to pressure from the U.S.-led coalition, said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, chief spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry.
5. Afghanistan hopes to meet with Taliban this month
Media: Associated Press
Date: 07 February 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan expects to hold direct talks with the Taliban by the end of this month, an official said Sunday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mostaghani told reporters that Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States had agreed on a roadmap toward peace talks at a meeting in Islamabad the day before. He said the government hopes to “put an end to the futile violence which is imposed on our people.”
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