Kabul is battling to ensure that the Afghan Army is able to cope with the onslaught of the Taliban when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-led coalition eventually withdraws from the country
By JULIANA UCHE-OKOBI
Afghanistan must muster enough strength to counter the offensive of the Taliban militia, particularly in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops from the country in 2014. Hamid Karzai, Afghan president, has been jittery about such prospects in recent times. He blamed the recent attacks carried out by the Taliban in the country on the failure of intelligence on the part of the Afghan Army, backed by a coalition led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. But George Little, the Pentagon spokesman, disagrees, saying it was not realistic to expect the coalition forces to know in advance about every possible insurgent operation. “I didn’t believe this was an intelligence failure. We did sense that something like this might happen,” Little observed.
In his view, NATO has more serious issues facing it than the recent attack. The major concern of the coalition is how to keep Afghan forces effective, as coalition countries gradually withdraw their troops. That was one issue that NATO foreign and defence ministers deliberated upon during their two-day meeting in Brussels, Belgium, last Wednesday, April 18. The focus of the discussion centred on how to fund security forces in Afghanistan once international troops leave. Already, the coalition has agreed to start handing over security to Afghan forces, such that by the end of 2014, they would be in full control. Recently, Australia announced that it was bringing home most of its troops almost a year earlier than expected. Other nations in the coalition, including Canada, the Netherlands and France, have already pulled their forces out of combat to speed up their withdrawal.
In line with plans to keep Afghan forces in top shape financially, Karzai had, on Tuesday, April 17, called on the United States to make a written commitment to pay a minimum amount of $2 billion annually towards the maintenance of Afghan forces. But Washington even has bigger plans. The Barack Obama-led government is looking up to other countries to come up with at least $1 billion a year collectively, while it hopes to provide around $3 billion a year in support. It is expected that the Afghan national army will number about 350,000 soldiers in the next few months, with the US providing most of the training and logistical support.
In the recent past, Kabul, Afghan capital, has remained the target of Taliban militants. For instance, on August 19, 2011, a gunman stormed British Council headquarters, killing 12 people. A month later, on September 13, 2011, a gunman seized an uncompleted high-rise building in the capital and used it to launch attacks on NATO headquarters and US embassy. During the recent attack on April 15, 2012 seven sites, including parliament building, NATO headquarters and a number of foreign embassies were attacked.