Afghanistan: A Work in Progress


November 25, 2022: The IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government (since mid-2021) is still trying, and still failing, to get official recognition that it is the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The IEA is imposing the same kind of Islamic (Sharia) law lifestyle restrictions that Iran employs. This has caused Afghan women to openly support Iranian women who are very active in two months of anti-government protests. This unrest was triggered by the murder in custody of an Iranian woman who was accused by the religious police of not covering her hair in public.

Most nations consider the IEA a Pakistan-backed Islamic terror group that took control of the government with the additional help of Afghan drug cartels. Few nations are willing to provide foreign aid and the most common criticisms are about IEA providing sanctuary for Islamic terrorists, drug cartels and all manner of outlaws. The ISIL branch in Afghanistan is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which was formed in Afghanistan during 2015 with the help of ISIL leadership in Syria to handle ISIL activity throughout the region (Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and India). ISK found they were most effective if they confined their operations to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which they have been doing since 2019. Other Islamic terrorist groups are attacked along with the usual government and religious targets. If you want to be a hardcore Islamic terrorist, you join ISIL. To obtain official sanctuary in Afghanistan you must agree to make no attacks in Afghanistan and, if IEA asks, not attack a neighboring country.

There are very active Islamic terror groups in Afghanistan; the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) and ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which is also the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate. The more immediate problem is the TTP. Many TTP factions operate independently, often contrary to orders from TTP leadership. In contrast the Afghan Taliban was always more disciplined because they were dependent on the Pakistani military for a sanctuary and other essential aid. This included cash payments from the Afghan heroin cartels that also depend on the Pakistani military for essential supplies and services. The Afghan Taliban help protect cartel operations inside Afghanistan. Now that the Afghan Taliban once more (after 20 years in exile) controls the Afghan government, they find they have a lot in common with the TTP. Both Taliban’s see the Pakistani military as the enemy and that is causing major problems for the Pakistani military and Pakistan as a whole. So far TTP still has sanctuary in Afghanistan and is regularly sought out and attacked by Pakistani UAVs.

India, described by Pakistani generals as the mortal enemy of Pakistan, is far more peaceful, prosperous and uneventful compared to Pakistan. Then again, Pakistan can always compare itself to Taliban-run Afghanistan and take comfort in the fact that Afghanistan is far worse off than Pakistan. This is the case courtesy of the Pakistani military, which has been meddling more in Afghan affairs since the 1990s. That has not gone well for Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Painful Memories Become Reality

Iran and others in the region continue to have problems with the IEA over ISK attacks on Afghan Shia. This has led Iran to threaten support for an armed Afghan Shia resistance manned by the thousands of Afghan Shia who served as mercenaries in Syria. Some still do, because the Afghan mercs were the best fighters and that justifies higher pay than Arab mercenaries. These armed Shia fighters are willing to work with their 1990s Northern Alliance allies, which has reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front) and become a major problem for the IEA. That is more than the IEA can handle. Some of the NRF leaders are sons of successful Northern Alliance commanders. Iran threatens to provide more support to the NRF than they gave the Northern Alliance. So far this year NRF-dominated Panjshir province (northeast of Kabul) has come under attack by IEA forces which are not making a lot of progress in eliminating armed NRF members and their unarmed local supporters. NRF forces have put IEA forces in the Panjshir Valley on the defensive. The 1990s Northern Alliance dominated the Panjshir Valley (a 90-minute drive from Kabul) right up to the defeat of the Taliban government after September 2001. Northern Front leaders became members of the IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) government and now their sons reassembled as the NRF, quickly took control over most of the Panjshir Valley and successfully resisted IEA forces sent to gain any control there. The NRF uses mines, roadside bombs and ambushes to attack IEA forces as well as their supply convoys. The NRF men (and women) know the valley but few IEA troops do. IEA soldiers and police who have spent some time in the valley learn to be wary just to survive. That means exercising caution when attempting to arrest locals suspected of supporting the NRF.

The NRF faces the same problem the Northern Alliance did in 2001; they were seen by Pushtuns as representing the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan, which make up over half the population and vilely deny the expected respect to Pushtuns. For centuries the Pushtuns dominated Afghan politics and the minorities tolerated that until the Islamic radicals came along with Pakistan’s creation of the Taliban. One thing nearly all Afghans agree on is the damage Pakistan has done to Afghanistan and unwillingness to give up that interference. Afghans see themselves as the victim of neighbors seeking to control the country. Afghans would prefer to restore the modern state of Afghanistan, which was peacefully created 103 years ago. That quasi-monarchical/quasi-tribal form of government was doing fine because until the 1970s there was an agreement that largely kept the peace. This arrangement meant Afghanistan was a constitutional monarchy presided over by a Pushtun king who largely dealt with foreigners and left the tribes (60 percent of them non-Pushtun) to negotiate their differences. At that point Afghanistan was still largely medieval as far as cultural norms and economic activity was concerned. But the 20th century was making an impression and the educated urban minority was calling for radical change. This was tempting to many leading Afghans but the vast majority of Afghans were still in the countryside ruled by tribal leaders. Most of these rural Afghans opposed any radical change. The reform factions (mainly the pro-communist ones) got violent, tried to overthrow the monarchy, failed and in 1979 Russia intervened to rescue their fellow communists. That led to a civil war that is still going on.

The Russians left in frustration (not defeat) in 1989 and continued to supply the communist (or at least pro-Soviet) Afghan government with weapons and cash until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. By 1993 the pro-Russian government was gone and the violence evolved into a multi-faction civil war. Pakistan then created the Taliban to establish a pro-Pakistan religious dictatorship which lasted until September 2001. At that point the U.S. intervened on the side of the non-Pushtun tribes that were still fighting the Taliban as the Northern Alliance. Even then the Taliban had antagonized most Afghans and by the end of 2001 the Taliban government was gone. The Pushtuns were still the largest minority (over 40 percent of the population) and supported the Taliban because the Taliban was largely Pushtun and backed keeping the Pushtuns in charge. Because of that Afghanistan is mired in a civil war that seems impossible to stop. The IEA government represents the views of the tribal leaders at the expense of the urban population who were in favor of education for women, universities and women working outside the home and not wearing a hijab (head covering) or burqa (covers everything except the hands and eyes.) Many rural Afghans support some of these urban ideas, especially education for girls and more education in general. Beyond that these rural Afghans tend to be more conservative than those living in urban areas,

When the IEA took power, the national population was at least 33 million, which is 57 percent more than two decades ago when the Taliban were driven from power. Kabul is the largest city, with about half the urban population. The last time the Taliban were in charge (2001) Kabul had a population of half a million but twenty years later that has increased ten times to five million. Despite the population growth, over two-thirds of the population still lives in the countryside but the rural Afghans are not as conservative as they were in the 1990s. The NRF offers a return to the early 20th century constitutional form of government but with an elected president rather than a Pushtun king as head -of-state. If this could be done it requires the elimination (or diminishment) Islamic terrorist power and an end to Pakistani interference. This was temporarily achieved in 2001 by Western (mainly American) intervention and the subsequent infusion of over two billion dollars’ worth of aid. The Americans supplied most of the aid and military assistance and by 2020 the cost of this support had become unpopular with most Americans. Pakistan, Islamic terrorists and the Afghan drug cartels were all waiting for this and ready to replace the U.S. sponsored IRA with the more conservative and Pakistani-influenced IEA.

November 24, 2022: In the east (Paktika province) IEA security forces arrested men for making and selling heroin in a market place. The IEA collects taxes from the drug cartels but selling opium and heroin inside Afghanistan is forbidden. Similar raids and arrests took place in Nangarhar, Daikundi, Khost, Herat, Farah and Takhar provinces, resulting in 17 arrests. The drag cartels produce so much opium and heroin for export that some of it gets to the local population. That has created millions of addicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Iran. Having an addict in the family is considered shameful and most people in the region oppose addiction, but not occasional use of the drugs.

In the southeast (Logar province) three men and eleven men were whipped for various crimes. The flogging took place before an audience in a sports arena. Western nations criticized the IEA for adopting this practice, which the U.S. backed IRA banned. Public floggings are legal in many, mostly Moslem majority, nations, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Bahamas, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Libya, Yemen, Malaysia, Brunei, parts of Nigeria and Indonesia. A few nations, like Saudi Arabia also have public beheadings and amputations for serious crimes.

Outside of Kabul there are many complaints about the IEA hiring men for the security forces and not supplying uniforms. Some gangsters take advantage of this and commit crimes while describing themselves as members of the security forces. This is another example of the severe lack of cash income for the IEA. That makes it difficult to pay for essential services.

November 23, 2022: The IEA is having problems on the Iranian and Pakistani borders because of disputes over exactly where the border should be, or because of Iranian efforts to block Afghan drug smugglers, or because of Pakistani efforts to go after TTP operations on the Afghan side of the border. The IEA is negotiating with Iran and Pakistan in an effort to find solutions. This is difficult because the IEA budget problems mean not enough security personnel to police the borders. Pakistan and Iran are willing to use their own security personnel to police the borders. The only problem here is that Iran and Pakistan border guards are less likely to fully appreciate Afghan complaints.

November 22, 2022: The Czech Republic is permanently closing its Kabul embassy in January 2023. The Czechs opened an embassy in 2007 and closed it “temporarily” after the IEA suddenly replaced the IRA government in 2021. The IEA has not been able to improve security for the embassy so it is not being reopened. The Czechs see the East Asia region as the place where increased diplomatic efforts are most useful. Central Asia, on the other hand, is not very promising at the moment and dangerous for foreign diplomats. With the permanent closure of the Czech embassy there are fifteen left in Kabul. This includes embassies for China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). The EU (European Union) has a delegation in Kabul and Qatar hosts a few American diplomats who look after U.S. interests in Afghanistan. There are several other international organizations that maintain offices in Kabul to explore economic opportunities. IEA extends embassy-level protection to these delegations. No one has actually recognized the IEA as the legitimate government of Afghanistan but the IEA does control Kabul and has varying amounts of control throughout Afghanistan.

November 21, 2022: In Kabul a car bomb killed two people. No one took credit for the attack.

November 20, 2022: In the east (Paktika province) IEA security forces and Pakistani troops exchanged fire when the Afghans crossed the border to build a border post in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The gunfire took place in the Kurram district of the province, which is where many of these border disputes occur.

November 19, 2022: Foreign aid groups believe that half the Afghan population (that’s 20 million people) face severe food shortages over the next few months. This will cause some starvation deaths and even more fatalities because prolonged hunger makes victims more likely to die from some other affliction. Earlier in the year the UN estimated that 95 percent of Afghans were not getting enough food and eventually there will be starvation deaths. The UN experts calculated the total need and costs to transport the aid to where it is needed most. The major flaw in this plan is that few foreign aid donors are willing to donate. Disaster areas have earned unofficial “risk level” ratings that measure how much of the aid disappears (is stolen) before it can get to those in need. Afghanistan is considered one of the riskiest aid recipients in the world and has earned and sustained that designation over the last fifty years. This has already happened this year. In February 2022, Pakistan allowed a 50,000-ton Indian wheat shipment into Afghanistan, where most of it did not reach those most in need. The IEA sent the food to loyal groups and withheld it from areas where there was a lot of opposition, some of it armed to IEA rule. A further complication is the war in Ukraine, which has disrupted Ukrainian and Russian grain exports, which normally comprise about 30 percent of world grain exports. Russia started this war and refuses to end it. That means grain supplies are lower and prices higher. That means even less potential food aid for Afghanistan and more incentive for the IEA to mismanage food aid.

There is less hunger in the capital, Kabul, but there are a lot of beggars and the IEA is trying to reduce those numbers by rounding up many, over 18,000 so far, to determine who has a valid reason to be begging and who is doing mainly for the extra income. Most of the beggars are women and children and most were found to have a reason to beg (no income and little food). Women are not allowed to work outside the home but begging is not considered working and can be recognized as a necessity. Good Moslems are supposed to give beggars what they can. Especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

November 13, 2022: In Kabul, IEA security forces raided an ISK hideout, which resulted in several hours of gunfire and explosions before the six Islamic terrorists were killed. This group was responsible for two recent attacks in Kabul.

In the south (Kandahar province) Pakistan closed the Chaman border crossing in between Afghanistan and Baluchistan Province. There was a gunbattle at the crossing when several men from Afghanistan opened fire on Pakistani border guards. One Pakistani was killed and two wounded while all three of the attackers died. The dead men were believed to be TTP members.

November 5, 2022: Pakistan announced it is going to resume its offensive against the TTP. A ceasefire and negotiations are still in place but the TTP is not actively participating in the peace talks while the TTP forces are regularly violating the ceasefire with attacks in Pakistan. The new offensive is meant to destroy all TTP personnel in Pakistan and continue attacking TTP personnel (with UAV missile strikes) across the border in Afghanistan.

October 30, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) a meeting of tribal elders and politicians from Malakand division refused to form a local militia to work with the army in fighting Islamic terrorists operating in Malakand, which borders Afghanistan, has suffered from increasing violence and extortion by Islamic terrorist groups based in Afghanistan. The local leaders believed the army and security forces could so more and that is their job. The locals do not want to take up arms to deal with security. The locals blame the government for the increase in violence on the government peace talks with the TTP and the ceasefire that went along with it. The TTP are ignoring the “no fighting” aspect of the ceasefire and plundering many parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that border Afghanistan.




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