World View: Afghan Taliban Launches Multiple Terror Attacks, then Declares Farcical Ceasefire

Former Afghan Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on January 12, 2016. More than a dozen former Taliban fighters from Ghani district of Nangarhar province handed over their weapons as part of a …

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Taliban launches multiple terror attacks on Afghan security forces
  • The Taliban issues a farcical 3-day ceasefire statement
  • Special Inspector General issues scathing report on US military in Afghanistan
  • I love this picture – from Saturday’s G-7 meeting

Taliban launches multiple terror attacks on Afghan security forces

American soldiers in Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Getty)
American soldiers in Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Getty)

Afghan terrorists launched multiple coordinated attacks on Afghan security forces on Friday and Saturday. Almost 50 security force members were killed in Kunduz, Herat, and Sar-e-Pul provinces.

According to officials, the Afghan National Army launched operations in eight other provinces against insurgents, killing over 80 Taliban and ISIS militants on Friday and Saturday.

The Taliban announced the beginning of its Spring Fighting Season in mid-May, and clashes and attacks have increased noticeably across the country, resulting in a rise in casualties among security and defense force members. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Khaama (Afghanistan)

The Taliban issues a farcical three-day ceasefire statement

On Saturday, the Taliban issued a farcical statement declaring a three-day ceasefire. As usual, Afghan and American political and military officials are leaping to the bait, hoping that this is a sign that the Taliban are ready for a “negotiated settlement.” Here are some excerpts:

Directives of the Leader for the Mujahideen during Eid days

In the name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful

In order that our countrymen participate in Eid prayers and other festivities with complete confidence during the joyous days of Eid, the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate must strictly comply with the following directives:

1 – All Mujahideen are directed to cease all offensive operations against the domestic opposition forces during the first, second and third day of Eid however if Mujahideen are attacked, they must defend with their utmost capability.

2 – Foreign occupiers are excluded from the above order. Continue your operations against them and target them wherever and whenever you find an opportunity.

5 – The Mujahideen should not participate in civilian congregations where there could be a danger of airstrikes so that our inhumane enemy will not be able to use it as an excuse for their blind bombardments and civilian tragedies.

The phrase “the domestic opposition forces” refers to the Afghan security forces.

So, the Taliban issues this statement declaring a three-day ceasefire against “the domestic opposition forces” at the same time that it’s conducting massive coordinated terror attacks against those same forces.

Furthermore, the “foreign occupiers,” referring to the US-led coalition forces, are not included in the ceasefire.

The Taliban have repeatedly said that their objective is to force the US-led coalition forces to leave, after which they would easily defeat “the domestic opposition forces” in many parts of the country. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Long War Journal

Special Inspector General issues scathing report on U.S. military in Afghanistan

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a “lessons learned” report for 2018 on the U.S. experience in trying to implement a stabilization strategy in Afghanistan. The report says that pretty much everything the U.S. forces did in Afghanistan was a failure, and that is a conclusion I agree with.

Before providing excerpts, let me remind long-time readers that I have been writing for almost ten years that a simple Generational Dynamics analysis shows that any sort of victory or stabilization against the Taliban is literally impossible.

As I have explained many times, Afghanistan’s last generational crisis war was the extremely bloody Afghan crisis civil war, 1991-96, which mostly pitted the ethnic Pashtuns, who are Sunni Muslims and later formed the Taliban, versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. Now, twenty years later, Afghanistan is in a generational Awakening era, and a new young generation of Pashtuns is coming of age, raised on stories their parents told them about the atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance, and they’re looking for revenge.

But you do not have to know anything about generational history to understand what is going on. You just have to understand that there was an extremely bloody, violent civil war in 1991-96, pitting the Pashtuns versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. And you have to know that the Taliban are Pashtuns, and that young Pashtuns are looking for revenge for atrocities committed in the 1990s, and that NATO troops are completely irrelevant.

So even if the Taliban leaders agreed to some settlement, it would not satisfy their sons and daughters, who are not going to be deterred in their search for revenge. That is the way the world works.

The SIGAR report says, in many many words, that the Afghan stabilization operation has been a disaster. Here is a summary of the report’s conclusions:

Between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed.

The U.S. government overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan as part of the stabilization strategy. During the 2009 Afghanistan strategy reviews, President Obama and his civilian and military advisors set in motion a series of events that fostered unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved. They also ensured the U.S. government’s stabilization strategy would not succeed, first with the rapid surge and then the rapid transition. Under immense pressure to quickly stabilize insecure districts, U.S. government agencies spent far too much money, far too quickly, in a country woefully unprepared to absorb it. Money spent was often the metric of success. As a result, programming sometimes exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents.

Every organization and agency that worked on stabilization in Afghanistan suffered from personnel and programming deficits borne from rapid scaling, short tours, and the pressure to make quick progress. Even harder than finding available civilians and soldiers was finding qualified and experienced candidates who were trained and equipped to understand and navigate local political economies.

Stabilization is inherently political, but given DOD’s size and resources the military consistently determined priorities and chose to focus on the most insecure districts first. These areas were often perpetually insecure and had to be cleared of insurgents again and again. Civilian agencies, particularly USAID, were compelled to establish stabilization programs in fiercely contested areas that were not ready for them.

Because the coalition focused on the most insecure areas and rarely provided an enduring sense of security after clearing them, Afghans had little faith their districts would remain in government hands when the coalition eventually withdrew and were often too afraid to serve in local government. Implementing partners struggled to execute projects amid the violence, the coalition had very limited access to and understanding of prioritized communities, and U.S. government agencies were unable to adequately monitor and evaluate the projects that were implemented.

As a result, powerbrokers and predatory government officials with access to coalition projects became kings with patronage to sell, fueling conflicts between and among communities. In turn, Afghans who were marginalized in this competition for access and resources found natural allies in the Taliban, who used that support to divide and conquer communities the coalition was keen to win over.

To anyone who understands the generational analyses of Afghanistan that I have been writing for ten years, none of the SIGAR conclusions are a surprise at all. Stabilization did not work because stabilization is impossible in Afghanistan for the generational reasons given, and that will continue into the future.

Nonetheless, U.S. military forces said on Friday that the U.S. military fight in Afghanistan will be intensified.

As I have written in the past, there may be a dynamic going on where the American military makes statements that the public wants to hear, even though they do not contain a word of truth. Donald Trump and the military understand that this war cannot be won, but there is a larger purpose. As war with China and Pakistan approaches, President Trump wants to keep American troops active in Afghanistan and to continue to maintain several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. Under these circumstances, having troops in Afghanistan is what matters, whether the Taliban are defeated or not. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and AP

Related Articles

I love this picture — from Saturday’s G-7 meeting

Picture from Saturday's G-7 meeting in Canada
Picture from Saturday’s G-7 meeting in Canada


KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Afghanistan, Taliban, Afghan National Army, Spring Fighting Season, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail