Bad news from Afghanistan almost each day.
Again a bomb killed many civilians in Kabul: 90 died and 400 were wounded at the Zanbaq Square in the diplomatic quarter near the German and other embassies in the morning of May 31, 2017.
Will the Taliban take the country back?
Was everything in vain, a lost victory?
Thousands of lives and billions of dollar, just for nothing?
Many fear the worst and most media write just the negative.
This is my true real Afghanistan:
- Good and friendly people.
- They want to live just like many of us do in peace, with regular jobs and surrounded by their families
- Only a small minority of maybe five percent are radicals. Many are conservative, but not radicals.
After 30 years of involvement in Afghanistan – supporting the Mudjahedin in 1985 and with the expertise of the World Security Network in Afghanistan, Pakistan and FATA since 2002 and visits in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013 , I can predict the following:
- Even after the ISAF mission ended in 2014, the Taliban cannot win the country, nevertheless the gained more support the last years. For them to conquer the country is a mission impossible.
- They control more provinces, but not the nerve center of Afghanistan, the larger cities.
- It it very easy for them to place bombs and kill people in the cities. But they cannot overrun them easy, as they did once in Kunduz in the north.
- It is easy for them to control larger parts in the country side, supported by drug money.
- Still the government in Kabul is weak and corrupt and radical reforms are necessary.
- What is needed most is much more regional autonomy. Only this fits to the tribal structure of the country. America pressed the country in an unstable central structure- the main strategic mistake by the West after 9/11.
General John Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, gave a clear picture about the gains of the Taliban to the US Senate Armed Services Committee just recently. We met at the Munich Security Conference 2016 and discussed strategy, including the wisdom of my biography of Pentagon strategist Dr Fritz Kraemer, a book his father has given to him.
His main facts on the ground:
- The war is a stalemate.
- The Afghan government controls today just 57 percent of the country, down from 72 percent a year earlier. A success would be they control 80 percent.
- Heavy casualties for the Afghan forces.
- Thousand of more troops are needed for more training, especially special forces in need.
It is different from Iraq, where the Shiite government pushed the Sunni tribes into the hands of Daesh (ISIS) with a deadly wrong exclusive power-policy. For me the glass is about three quarters full.
Here are my 10 reasons why the Taliban cannot win in Afghanistan:
- The Taliban lack the support of the people and have no viable vision for the future of the country.
- More bombs just drive the people away from them.
- The Afghan Army and police are fighting them considerably well. They are not perfect and sometimes weak, but strong enough to deny the Taliban a victory.
- The U.S. and NATO will continue their support for training and not repeat the mistake of Iraq to go out with all troops too soon, leaving a vacuum.
- The foreign troops have left with only a limited training mission still in the country. Now the battle is between the Afghans and not against a foreign invader.
- A new young generation with smartphones is in charge, with better educations, including the girls.
- There are many media outlets reporting.
- The elections showed broad interest and support for the political process.
- After 13 years the Afghans have emancipated themselves from the Taliban past.
- The Taliban lost long-time support from Pakistan, the ISI and safe havens in FATA. Too many in the Pakistani military used the option to influence the neighbor in the West versus India by the Afghan-Taliban. For too long they ignored it as a deadly threat for stability inside Pakistan as well. The bombing of an Army school in Peshawar and too many attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and other radicals on military installations in Pakistan pushed this misperception away.
Make no mistake, you will hear bad news from Afghanistan. Each week for the next years.
It is fairly easy for the Taliban to detonate bombs anywhere – but it is not possible to win the country, the north or large cities back in their favour.
Afghanistan is still dangerous – but peace will prevail at the end.
I also predict that ISIS/Daesh will not have success in Afghanistan, as it does in Iraq.
I would like to thank the brave U.S. soldiers, ISAF and all the soldiers from Afghanistan and foreign countries involved in making this turnaround possible. Their many losses since 2001 will not be forgotten.
What can be done now?
- The containment of the Taliban will proceed with financial support.
- Corruption must be fought tirelessly with real reconciliation as well as peace-talks with the Taliban involving Pakistan are necessary.
- The young people need jobs and a perspective for the future.
- Around 8,000 more US soldiers are needed to stabilize the country, as requested by Gen. Nicholson.
Photo: Globalo-Founder Dr Hubertus Hoffmann meeting the future of Afghanistan on the market of Kabul and meeting ISAF commander Gen. Petraeus in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2011.