Afghanistan: On transfer of security and peace negotiations

1. The NATO led International coalition hands over responsibility to the Afghan national army and police. The transition sounds as a major milestone, but how would you asses the ability of Afghan forces to do their job?  2. Also  U.S., Afghans, Taliban peace talks may  begin. What it means in your opinion? Read few comments by Jorrit KammingaVisiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael. Update: also comments by Patrick Bury, military and security analyst.

Jorrit KammingaVisiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael

1. As I have argued before, the security transition process is a political calendar that has very little to do with the actual improvements of 1) the security situation in Afghanistan and 2) the skills and abilities of the Afghan National Security Forces. Despite the political rethoric of NATO and its troop contributing countries, these are not fully ready to take over and much more training is needed in coming years.

I think the security transition is not a milestone but rather a signpost of failure: As the international community, we have been unable to keep our audiences interested in Afghanistan and keep the political and financial commitment for both the military and the development assistance that is still very much needed. The latest Taliban attacks in Afghanistan show this.

So what some might call a milestone or a success story, I call a poor exit strategy based on ‘rushing to the door’ as soon as possible on the basis of domestic political concerns that have nothing to do with the current situation in Afghanistan.

2. I think any efforts of peace negotiations are good, and obviously better than the current situation where there is no serious peace process.

In the Afghan case it would be similar to the ongoing peace negotiations in Colombia: talking while the fighting continues. The problem in Afghanistan is that there have so far been many different attempts to negotiate peace, every time with different players and organised by different parties.

What is needed is an all-inclusive peace process, including obviously Pakistan. Without the political commitment of Pakistan there will be no peace. So if peace talks only involve the Taliban, the Afghan Government and the US, they will fail. And besides, who are you talking to when negotiating peace with the Taliban? In the Colombian case, the FARC are negotiating in Cuba, but some of its military divisions, such as the Bloque Sur, may want to continue the fighting. The same can happen in Afghanistan where there are many different Taliban factions.

Patrick Bury, Military and security Analyst, Author of  Book Callsign Hades

1. On the transition to Afghan forces: I am worried about the metrics that were used to assess whether the forces were ready for transition or not. Last year they changed the assessment criteria for units that were ready for transition, thereby allowing NATO to move units that were  assessed as lower quality into higher quality brackets. I’m also worried about the under reporting of real violence levels amongst the US/NATO – for instance last year the US said that insurgent attacks dropped by 7%, when this was revealed as being untrue, they responded by saying they weren’t counting attacks anymore. See here . Also, is NATO still measuring violence once areas have been handed over?

I’m not entirely sure…

2. On the negotiations, its a small step in the right direction but for me the fact that Karzai has already pulled out signifies that a political settlement remains far off. As does the attack on Bagram airbase yesterday which killed four US soldiers, What you need is trust building measures; a battlefield ceasefire to create the space for negotiations, but neither side have agreed to that yet. Plus you have to consider the fractious nature of the Taliban – Haqqani network and Hekmatyr are at opposite ends of the spectrum and even if some peace deal is forthcoming it is likely that some of the insurgents will splinter and keep fighting…

Overall, not very optimistic.

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