While the regions in the Middle East enter into a new phase of terrorism and go deeper into bloodshed and violence with each passing day, the United States says no to counterterrorism and that it will not hunt-down the Taliban leaders after January 2nd, 2015 and excludes Mullah Omar and the other most wanted people from its list and will no longer liable them for their past acts of terror.
According to a Media report released earlier, the United State said that it will no longer target Mullah Omar whom it had announced $10 million reward for his capture since Oct 2001, unless posed a direct threat to the country. President Barack Obama in his year-end news conference also assured his nation that he would fulfill his promise to end the U.S-led war in Afghanistan which had already happened two days back and that the U.S forces remain in Afghanistan will no longer carry out further combat mission against Taliban leaders.
In this regard, the Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby in response to a journalist who asked him to further explain the U.S new policy towards pursuing Taliban leader Mullah Omar said, “I do not know if I can answer that question. As the recognized leader of the Taliban to the degree the Taliban still poses a threat to us or to our partner, the U.S will continue its military operation against them.” In addition to this, he also said that the Afghan government itself will be responsible for hunting Mullah Omar from the beginning of 2nd, January 2015 and that the U.S will no longer go after someone like Mullah Omar or alike anymore.
Now that America’s Defence Ministry has officially confirmed that Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan will not be the goal of America’s war, it becomes clear that this new phase of the strategy is a systematic and planned to be implemented under any circumstances. However, it has become the new Media headlines, but it seems that the decision has taken many years ago when there have been consistent disagreement between ex-president Hamid Karzai over the agreement of U.S permanent security pack in Afghanistan.
What is so important for Afghan nation is the current fragile security situation. After all, the country is in a transition process and steeped in dozens of other similar paralyzing crisis. Afraid of once America’s 13-year war against terrorism, the region may collapse again in the hands of Taliban.
The question is, how the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 changed the mind of the United States about Mullah Omar to leave him rocks the region with his terror attacks and who is already responsible for thousands of innocent souls? Why over the past 13 years, thousands of Afghans under Taliban were killed and thousands more injured and imprisoned in the fight against Mullah Omar and other wanted leaders of Taliban?
The lesson learned from Iraq reminds that it is too early to hands off from a man like Mullah Omar, the one who still posses great threat and manages to rock the country with deadliest bomb lasts. The successes of ISIS and other extremist groups have raised serious questions about the wisdom of America’s decision to withdraw its military forces from Iraq in 2011. And they raise equally significant questions about the U.S. decision to exit Afghanistan and withdraw from targeting Mullah Omar. Only a few weeks before ISIS began its offensive into western and northern Iraq, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he would be withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and that all U.S. forces would be gone by 2016.
Of course Afghanistan and Iraq are two different countries and have separate cultures, political systems, histories of conflict and interfering by neighboring countries, but there are open lessons from Iraq that U.S. policy-makers need to consider as it withdraws its forces from Afghanistan and goes no longer behind Mullah Omar and his alliance.
Afghanistan is much like Iraq, there are considerable challenges on the ground with Afghan army, police and intelligence forces. Competent security forces are the main power of a state to survive. Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) forces are almost certainly less capable than their Iraqi counterparts, yet they face a more terrifying enemy that rocks with violence, almost on daily basis.
In southwestern Afghanistan, ANA and ANP units face shortfalls in supplies and equipment, high attrition rates and broken inter-service cooperation. More broadly, the ANSF will have to deal with substantial financial shortfalls in the near future. In 2015, Afghanistan is expected to cover only $500 million of the ANSF’s budget of over $5 billion. Donors funding which constitute roughly 60 percent of Afghanistan’s entire national budget will likely decrease as U.S. and NATO forces leave Afghanistan. The ANA has already cut soldiers, net compensation by about one third.
In addition, aid from neighboring states is a key unpredictable. ISIS capitalized on its safe havens in eastern Syria to plan and execute operations in Iraq. In Afghanistan, insurgent groups enjoy sanctuary in neighboring countries. They have access to substantial resources, including the drug trade. Poppy cultivation declined between 2007 and 2011, but increased to 180,000 hectares in 2012 and 198,000 hectares in 2013 and had risen by 7 percent to cover 224,000 hectares in 2014. Opium was particularly widespread in southwestern Afghanistan and some eastern provinces like Nangarhar and is an important source of income for Taliban senior leaders and local insurgent commanders.
So far, from now on, the Afghan forces themselves have to conduct major operations in Now Bahar, Zabul Province and other dominated areas under Taliban to prevent the district centers from being overrun. The Taliban has also made advances in Uruzgan, Kapisa, Nangarhar, Daykundi and other provinces following the withdrawal of U.S. forces and their setback from the battlefields.
The presence of U.S. special operations forces and air power in Afghanistan has likely deterred Taliban leaders from massing their forces which they would need to do to seize and hold a major city. Still, the Taliban leaders appear to be impressive about their prospects of winning, following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Despite the differences between Iraq and Afghanistan, there is one important similarity. A quick withdrawing of U.S. military force is likely to be destabilizing. To prevent Afghanistan from Taliban takeover, the United States should maintain special operations forces after 2014 to conduct counterterrorism operations, beside training, advising and assisting the national and local forces. Particular attention should be given to addressing the ANSF’s weaknesses in such areas as intelligence collection and logistics.
U.S. support should not be open ended, but should be conditions based. Continuing U.S. support is possible at a reasonable cost to the United States and Afghanistan’s other foreign donors, so long as Afghan leaders continue to enhance the capabilities of the ANSF, take steps to improve governance and reach to a joint agreement with its neighbour Pakistan to launch a combat mission against terrorists in their part areas. The United States should also continue to target the state of Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist groups. If Al-Qaeda were to lose its sanctuary in the region and were thus unable to strike the nations in the Middle East, then there would be little strategic rationale to stop targeting Mullah Omar and his alliances.
But a U.S. decision towards Mullah Omar would increase the likelihood of an Al-Qaeda resurgence, regional instability and a deterioration of human rights. Their terror attacks in capital, Kabul and other major cities are hitting badly with 19 percent increase from 2013. These are the ground realities that the United States must concern and contemplate about their withdrawal aftermath, potentially leaving them vulnerable to attack from Taliban fighters and other extremists in particular.
Al-Qaeda’s global leadership is still located along the Afghan-Pak border, though it has been weakened by persistent U.S. strikes. A civil war or successful Taliban-led insurgency would likely allow Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan to increase their presence in Afghanistan. Most of these groups have already expanded their presence in Afghanistan over the past several years and carried out high profile attacks against civilians.
The consensus over withdrawing from Mullah Omar and other extremist fighters is quiet disappointing, perhaps a successful failure in the fight against terrorism. It is an illustrative fact that Afghan forces are too weak and they are not in a position to be able defeat the Taliban to defend gains or maintain a good security situation. There are prognostications about the likelihood of Taliban’s return if the U.S does not bring flexibility in its new strategy towards assisting Afghanistan in the future.