every step should be measured



afghanistan times

june 21, 2020


The progress of the peace process in Afganistan has been promising recently.  Thousands of prisoners have been released by the Afghan government and the Taliban, a move that contributes somewhat to the trust-building between the warring sides. Reports of the possible launch of intra-Afghan talks by the end of June are circulating in the media, with Doha of Qatar having been finalized and agreed upon by the sides as the venue for the all-Afghan negotiations.  In a recent development, head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, informed that Washington has reduced its troops number to 8,600 in Afghanistan.  This measure marks the fulfilment of the first phase pullout obligation under the U.S.~Taliban agreement signed in February this year.  All these steps gradually build up and advance the peace process.  As the U.S.~Taliban peace pact also calls for the full withdrawal of the U.S. military from the country by May 2021, it is based on some conditions, including severing ties with terrorist groups.  McKenzie referred to this provision, saying it was an “aspirational” commitment, but also conditional:  “Conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan.”  Meanwhile, it wasn’t long before the Taliban renewed their commitmet to honor the peace pact, saying Afghanistan wouldn’t be used against anyone.  “They should not be concerned,” said the group’s spokesman.  Although the small steps towards peace are significant, the conditions-based approach to withdrawal and peace in Afghanistan so far is laudable. This is as there are concerns that this approach is just a pretext.  There are already reports that the Trump administration is mulling over at a range of options to pull out all of its troops from Afghanistan, most likely at an early date.  The haste in this regard stems from the fact that President Trump is targeting this November, when the U.S. presidential election is scheduled, to present the bringing home of soldiers as an achievment to the public and thus secure votes.  Therefore, the only concern crossing Afghans’ minds is that such pretexts of conditions-based approach are not focused on U.S. interests alone.  To put it clearly, some believe that there is a high probability that the Trump administration might withdraw before the scheduled date and after the election is conducted, it would use the card of the terrorism to re-deploy some troops into Afghanistan.  If the country really wants to extricate itself from Afghanistan, peace is the only face-saving way to achieve that end.  And if not, pretexts of conditions are there to make the withdrawal ambiguous and open-ended.  Thus, every step taken in this regard should be measured and deliberate in order to avoid jeopardizing the whole peace process and the progress made so far.  The worst-case scenario could be making peace a means to secure U.S. interests and ignore those of Afghanistan.

biden sticks his foot in his mouth


afghanistan times

february 10, 2020



During presidential election inter-partisan debates in the United States, it has become customary for the leading candidates to engage in debates where they table topics for discussion which are often the most controversial issues of the time. A recent instance is of a hardcore democratic politician’s remarks regarding Afghanistan, something that has riled Afghans. Joe Biden, who is a candidate for president in the 2020 US election, while addressing a debate said, “with regards to Afghanistan, I was totally against the whole notion of nation-building. There’s no possibility at all of making it a whole country. But it is possible to see they’re not able to launch more attacks.” Afghan politico and masses have lambasted Biden for such absurd and morally bankrupt notions, and rightly so. Former president Hamid Karzai in a statement called Joe Biden’s remarks on Afghanistan ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unrealistic’ and said ‘it is evident that the US has never sought nation-building in Afghanistan.’ The question here is why does he think like that and remark as such?

It’s mainly because of being a gifted demagogue with particular skill in manipulating the American taxpayers by stating the popular opinion to win the public support in the election. However, he should know that Afghanistan has remained a resilient nation. No country in the world could go through 40 years of back-to-back invasions, interferences, imposed wars and still remain intact. It’s Afghanistan which has remained united despite the war and destruction. Biden scapegoating Afghanistan for its multiethnic trait is just a demagogic move, something usually expected from politicians. Afghanistan has remained a nation-state because we share the same culture despite ethnic disparities, which should be our strength not a weakness. In Afghanistan, nation-building is possible if we have a grassroots-approach and is undoubtedly impossible when it is an external imposition. These remarks should serve as a wake-up call for Afghans to beware of the manipulative designs of some elements who want to divide us along ethnic lines.

Moreover, multiple reports have suggested and many agree that American nation-building efforts have so far failed to establish and sustain democracies in 11 (excluding Afghanistan) countries. And one reason could be the securitization modus operandi used by the US – an extreme version of politicization that enables extraordinary means to be used in the name of security – while providing the posturing and alibi of building our nation. Therefore, such outspoken and revolutionary ideas by the American politician are only aimed at winning public support of Republican-exhausted American voters in the upcoming election. The natural fabric of Afghan society is tightly woven to the extent that despite ethnic dissimilarities, we have remained intact and will remain as such against the consistent foreign interference. Therefore, Biden should drop his maximalist position, which will do him no good, and apologize for his ignorant and irresponsible statement regarding Afghanistan.




afghan security forces, lethal & majestic


Col. Abdul Rahman Rahmani and Jason Criss Howk

Military Times

August 29, 2019


The evidence that the U.S. wants a shift in its current political policy in Afghanistan is clear, yet actions should to be taken to fulfill the coalition’s commitments in Afghanistan…

The government of Afghanistan has been a trusted ally for over 18 years and can be trusted to bring an end to the Taliban insurgency, either by negotiations or by force…

If funded, supported, and advised adequately, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) can continue to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield and pressure them to hold talks with the Afghan government in Kabul…

The Taliban militia force of the insurgency, leading a campaign of terror against the Afghan people, were supposed to be able to get strong enough to over-power the Afghan security forces after the U.S.-led coalition left. That did not happen for two reasons. First, the creation of a professional and lethal ANDSF was a priority effort that started just weeks after the U.S.-led invasion and it has continued non-stop for 18 years. Second, the U.S.-led coalition of military, development and diplomacy experts from around the globe did not heed anyone’s advice to keep the ANDSF small and then leave quickly without training them adequately.

The continued efforts of dozens of nations have enabled the ANDSF to become one of the premier forces in the region. The ANDSF is the most respected institution in the Afghanistan government. The ANDSF does not just defend Afghanistan, it is also the primary force facing the global terrorism front line. Despite many states sponsoring the Taliban to destroy ANDSF, and despite thousands of ANDSF lives lost in the past 18 years, the ANDSF have displayed valor, lethality and professionalism, as they continued to grow towards their necessary capabilities. Fighting against over 20 different terrorist groups — who, of course, use different methods, techniques, and tactics on the battlefields — our innovative and proud ANDSF have not permanently lost a single province or city to the enemies. In fact, they have steadily gained territory and caused heavy human and material losses to the Taliban and other terrorist groups such as ISIS-K.

Currently, the ANDSF — particularly the Afghan Special Forces and the Afghan Air Force who are taking responsibly for much of the fighting — are in a good shape, conducting complex independent operations with no or limited foreign support. This record of battlefield success and continuing professionalism is the exact opposite of the communist army that was defeated by the mujahedeen in the 1980s and ’90s. This patriotic military force will not falter and is loyal to the Afghan citizens.

This year, as usual, the Taliban and their terrorist allies tried to launch a campaign of murder and brutality in Afghanistan that they like to call their spring offensive. This year it failed to even start. Let’s see how:

This April, the Taliban attempted to initiate an offensive campaign aiming to gain leverage in the Doha talks with the U.S. via some ground victories. In order to transport their terrorist allies and smuggle drug caravans to Central Asia, the Taliban wanted to overrun a strategic district bordering Turkmenistan. Right after their offensive campaign announcement, they attacked Balamorghab district in Badghis Province located in the northwestern Afghanistan, with a force of over 2,000 fighters. This was their third attempt since 2013 to capture this strategic district, but they failed to do so because the ANDSF denied them victory. Under the command of Gen. Yasin Zia, a new and passionate first deputy for Ministry of Defense, they launched a 10-day air and ground campaign on the Taliban fighters inflicting heavy casualties and clearing the district from the Taliban in the matters of days.

The ANDSF victory in Balamorghab and Taliban’s humiliating defeat, angered their leaders and regional supporters; and to ease this humiliating defeat on the battlefield, they ramped up their attacks on several key districts across Afghanistan in the months of May and July, including Shamulzayi and Mizan in Zabul province, Obe in Herat, Qush Tepa in Jawzjan, and Dila Wa Khushamand in Paktika province. But they have failed to permanently even capture them. If by surprise they were able to gain any ground, they have failed to hold on in those districts. Not only are those districts under government control, the ANDSF have also succeeded in retaking some key districts form the Taliban, including Dehyak and Khuwaja Omari in Ghazni and Bilchiragh in Faryab province.

Also, worth noting that, for the first time, ANDSF have successfully conducted 10 self-planned and self-commanded and controlled “liberating ops,” as they call them, to free ordinary Afghans and ANDSF personnel from the Taliban prisons. As a result, they have freed more than 250 men from the Taliban prisons. From the beginning of the Taliban’s so-called spring offensive, ANDSF have killed more than 24 Taliban shadow governors, battlefield commanders, and senior leaders including Sadar Ibrahim, the Taliban’s Defense Minister and Mullah Manan, their notorious leader in Helmand and other southern provinces.

These ANDSF successes, have significantly affected the Taliban campaign of murder and terror. Therefore, they turned their guns from ANDSF to ordinary Afghans. Recently, the Taliban took responsibility of a bombing that claimed lives of 16 Afghan civilians and injured 105, including 51 children and five women. The angrier and more desperate the Taliban become, the more they lose. Taliban lose not only on the battlefields, but also at the negotiating table. The Afghan government and people are right now considering whether they can allow the Taliban to reenter Afghan society. Atrocities against civilians, especially children are not helping the Taliban in this respect.

This war has been deadly for the ANDSF. It’s been costly for their families, as well. Despite the losses of tens of thousands of police and military members in this war, the morale of the ANDSF has been steadily increasing. The Afghan people have chosen their security forces over the insurgency militants, and continue to send their sons and daughters to join the ANDSF and defend the republic.

In closing, the ANDSF is firmly under the control of the Afghan government and by extension the Afghan people. They stand ready to continue to secure the nation against internal and external threats. It is time for the Taliban to accept the olive branch that the Afghan government is offering. A cease fire and peace talks with the Afghan government will give the Taliban a chance to return to normal life. The Afghan people deserve peace, and the ANDSF are the cornerstone of a durable peace. It’s time for the killing to stop inside Afghanistan, there are many external threats for the ANDSF and its allies to focus on in the region.


Col. Abdul Rahman Rahmani is an Afghan Special Mission Wing pilot by profession and is currently assigned to the Afghan National Security Council staff in Kabul. He is the author of “Afghanistan: A Collection of Stories.” Rahmani is an Expeditionary Warfare School graduate from Marine Corps University.

Jason Criss Howk is an interfaith leader and Islamic studies instructor who has worked on reintegration and reconciliation in Afghanistan since 2002. He is the author of the award-winning book “The Quran: a Chronological Modern English Interpretation” and the co-host of the “We’re Just Talking About It” podcast.

These are their personal views on the war in Afghanistan and neither of the authors speak on behalf of their nations or any organization.





Editor ~ Rawclyde


Is Afghanistan Going Down?


Gwynne Dyer

Arab News

25 December 2015


If the Taliban were not so busy fighting the rival Daesh (Islamic State, ISIS) terrorists who began operating in Afghanistan early this year, they might now be within reach of overthrowing the Afghan government that the Western powers left behind when they pulled out most of their troops last year. Even with that distraction, the Taliban are doing pretty well.  On Monday (before Chirstmas), a Taliban suicide-bomber on a motorcycle managed to kill six American soldiers who were patrolling the perimeter of Bagram air base near Kabul. On the same day, Taliban fighters took almost complete control of Sangin in Helmand province, a town that over 100 British troops died to defend in 2006-10.

As Major Richard Streatfield, a British officer who fought at Sangin, told the BBC: “I won’t deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder — was it worth it? Because if the people we were trying to free Afghanistan from are now able to just take it back within two years, that shows that something went badly wrong at the operational and strategic level.”  It was probably a mistake to invade Afghanistan in the first place. Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorists could have been dealt with without invading an entire country, and there was never any evidence that the Taliban government of the day knew about his 9/11 attacks on the United States in advance.

Having invaded the country, it was a mistake not to hand it over to a tough regime made up of warlords from the major ethnic groups and get out before the presence of over a hundred thousand foreign troops gave the Taliban a second wind. Trying to create a Western-style liberal democracy in Afghanistan was even more naive than the previous Soviet project to build a modern, secular, “socialist” one-party state in the country.  The 19th-century British army and the 20th-century Russian army could both have told them: it has always been easy to invade Afghanistan, but it has always been hard for foreign troops to stay there more than a couple of years. And having made those mistakes, it was another mistake to pull almost all the foreign troops out before the Afghan government’s army was up to holding the Taliban off. If, indeed, it can ever be brought up to that level.

The parlous state of the Afghan National Army and the sheer fecklessness of government was highlighted by last weekend’s desperate plea by Helmand’s deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar for supplies and reinforcements for the troops holding Sangin.  It’s not just that the army had neglected the plight of those soldiers. It’s the fact that Rasulyar had to resort to posting his plea on Facebook to get the government’s attention.  Part of the problem is rampant corruption. For example, up to a quarter of the army’s troops are “ghost soldiers” who only exist on paper, so that officers can draw their pay.  The worse problem is that President Ghani, a former senior official at the World Bank, only won last year’s election. Conflicts with the aggrieved losers have left the government paralyzed: Twenty months after the election, there is still not even a permanent defense minister.

Morever, Ghani believes that a decisive military victory over the Taliban is impossible. This is probably correct — but he is therefore committed to cultivating close ties with Pakistan in the hope that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA, will deliver the Taliban to the table for peace talks. But Ghani is wrong on two counts. The Taliban have no reason to agree to a power-sharing peace settlement, since they can still hope for an outright military victory. And Pakistan doesn’t really control the Taliban. There were preliminary peace talks early this year, but there has been nothing since July.  The Afghan army would be collapsing a good deal faster if so much of the Taliban’s attention were not focused on fighting off the challenge from Daesh. (It has killed at least a thousand Daesh terrorists this year.) But the Taliban still managed to seize the city of Kunduz in the north for a week in September, and now Sangin in the southwest is going.
We are seeing the usual short-term responses in the West. President Obama has halted the withdrawal of most of the remaining 9,800 US troops in the country (which was scheduled for the end of this year), and Britain has ordered ten of the 450 troops it still has in Afghanistan back to Sangin.

But that won’t make much difference, and there is no chance whatever that the NATO countries will build their troop strength in Afghanistan back up to the level — around 140,000 — where it was five years ago. The Afghans are on their own now.



Nice going Gwynne Dyer. You are no longer tacitly supporting terrorism, you are now publicly supporting the overthrow of legitimate governments.

Mike McDermid




Pakistan’s Covert Taliban Approach


by Hekmatullah Azamy

Gandhara News / Editorial

November 10, 2015


In the years that followed the 9/11 attacks against the United States, Pakistani leaders prided themselves in being “the frontline state against terrorism” for years as Western leaders showered praise and assistance upon the country.

But the 2011 killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town and Islamabad’s continued tolerance of Afghan Taliban sanctuaries have inevitably led to accusations of duplicity.

Critics pointed out that while receiving billions of dollars from Western nations in the name of fighting terrorists, Islamabad was covertly supporting the Taliban and tolerated jihadist groups accused of fomenting violence in neighboring countries.

Sources within the Afghan Taliban now say Islamabad is engaged in similar double-dealing with the hardline movement.

They say that although Islamabad played a prominent role in enabling the succession of current Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, it has also shored up opponents within the radical Islamist movement to keep him in check and dependent on Pakistani support.

Since the confirmation of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death in July, Mansur has struggled to establish himself as the undisputed leader.

These sources, most of whom requested anonymity, say Pakistan’s response is a new policy to allow divisions within the group as a means to retain control over the fragmented movement.

Islamabad’s more immediate goal is allowing a divided Taliban leadership to take shape while preventing infighting among foot soldiers. Taliban insiders say in the longer term Islamabad wants to push Mansur into negotiations with Kabul while supporting the anti-Mansur camp in continued fighting within Afghanistan.

“Like its policy toward the mujahedin parties [of the 1980 and ’90s], Pakistan seeks to create factions within the Taliban and use them to threaten Mansur or balance influence among rival groups,” said Khalifa Akhund, a pseudonym for a Mansur supporter.

He says Tayyab Agha, former head of the Taliban’s office in Qatar, and renegade Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah rejected Mansur’s leadership because of his close ties with Pakistan. Agha resigned from his post in August while in September Mansur dispatched hundreds of fighters to dislodge Dadullah from his stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

Akhund says some senior members of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership council, including Mullah Hassan Rahmani, Mullah Abdul Razaq, and Abdul Manan Niazi, oppose Mansur at the behest of Pakistan.

A senior Afghan intelligence official concurred, speaking on the condition of anonymity, saying that unlike the mujahedin, Islamabad is not allowing pro- and anti-Mansur camps to fight each other because it would undermine their movement’s fighting potential on the battlefield.

This is why Kabul’s effort to foment Taliban infighting failed. “If divisions were not controlled, it could undermine the Taliban’s ability on the battlefield, and the group would be weaker whenever it joins negotiations,” he said.

The Afghan official said Islamabad is empowering Mansur’s potential rivals inside Afghanistan. He says Pakistan recently helped veteran Taliban commander Abdul Qayum Zakir launch large-scale offensives in southern Afghanistan. Since August, the Taliban have made significant advances in the Musa Qala and Kajaki districts of Helmand Province.

These operations compelled Mansur to offer Zakir to either become his first deputy or become the Taliban’s shadow “defense minister.” Zakir, a former Guantanamo detainee, was considered an archrival of Mansur. He was appointed head of the Taliban’s military commission in 2010, but Mansur reportedly sacked him in 2014.

Taliban sources say Mansur has long sought Taliban leadership with Pakistani assistance. In 2007, he replaced former Taliban deputy leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund after his arrest in Pakistan.

In 2010, he helped Pakistan “orchestrate” the arrest of Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. These sources claim Mansur accused him of engaging in unauthorized talks with Kabul.

Soon after Baradar’s arrest, Mansur assumed his position and turned into the Taliban’s de facto leader.

Taliban sources say Pakistan’s backing of Mansur became apparent to them during their leadership transition this summer. Without Mansur and his Pakistani patrons’ permission, confirming Mullah Omar’s death [in July] would not have been possible,” Mawalwi Amin (name changed), a Taliban member, told me.

Amin offers three reasons for the timing of confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death reports, which were circulating for years. First, Kabul asked Pakistan to arrange a direct confirmation of Mullah Omar’s support for peace talks, as claimed in an Eid statement published under the late leader’s name on July 15. Second, to prevent defections from the Taliban to the Islamic State militants because of Mullah Omar’s prolonged absence. Finally, Pakistan and Mansur deemed the timing was right to publicly announce his leadership over the movement.

Qari Fida (name changed) is a senior Taliban figure who recently returned from Pakistan after meeting with Taliban leaders opposing Mansur. He says Islamabad’s aim is to divide the leadership after insurgent leaders attempted to act independently while exploring negotiations with Kabul.

He says that in early 2015, a Taliban faction decided to leave Pakistan after Islamabad pressured it to negotiate with Kabul. Islamabad was alarmed when some Taliban members boycotted the Mansur-sanctioned peace meeting with Afghan officials in early July.

Fida says by pressuring some Taliban to join peace talks, Pakistan also supports the anti-Mansur camp so they could continue operations in Afghanistan should Mansur strike a peace deal with Kabul. Earlier this year, Mansur faced considerable opposition from within the Taliban when he revealed a willingness to engage in peace talks. But he later dismissed the talks as enemy propaganda.

Powerful elements within the Taliban oppose peace talks and Mansur’s leadership, but Islamabad has so far done nothing to either urge them to support Mansur or warn them not to use Pakistan’s soil in their fight against the Afghan government.

In addition, Fida says, Pakistan’s willingness to work with an anti-Mansur camp is aimed at containing a possible Taliban rebellion against Pakistan because of concerns that Afghan rebels would support Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Islamabad sees TTP as an existential threat and has often claimed they operate from Afghan safe havens.

Recently, Pakistan has called for the resumption of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But Kabul has instead called on Islamabad to end its covert support for the Afghan Taliban.

A senior Afghan official says Pakistan is pushing hard for peace talks and has even complained to Kabul about ignoring its calls for the resumption of talks. “In order to please China, Pakistan is pushing to facilitate peace talks, but Kabul has lost trust over the country,” he said.

Kabul is apparently worried over Pakistan’s new approach, which aims to win one camp of the Taliban a role within the Afghan government while helping another to sustain the fight in Afghanistan.

Islamabad can only end these concerns if it makes a clean break with all Taliban factions by denying them sanctuary and covert assistance. U.S. President Barack Obama drew a similar conclusion when he called for an end to Taliban sanctuaries on October 14.

“Next week, I’ll host Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, and I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve,” Obama said.


Hekmatullah Azamy is a research analyst with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul, Afghanistan. These views are the author’s alone and do not represent those of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty or his employer.