Afghan civil war feared as Taliban survive US surge
KABUL: With the end of the US surge in Afghanistan, the Taliban have survived the biggest military onslaught the West will throw at them - and fears are growing that a disastrous new civil war looms.
The last of the extra 33,000 soldiers US President Barack Obama deployed nearly three years ago left late last month, and the remaining NATO force of some 112,000 will follow by the end of 2014.
Although a small contingent of foreign troops may remain to conduct counter-terror operations, Western politicians stress that what Obama once called the ‘good war’ will ‘end’ in 2014.
But while the unpopular conflict might end for NATO, some analysts predict a collapse of the Western-backed government and a civil war worse than that in the 1990s when Soviet troops withdrew after their own 10-year occupation. “I think it is only a matter of time before the government collapses. That is certain,” says Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group.
“What will come to dominate in Kabul in 2014, 2015 will be chaos and violence. And the fracturing that we saw in the 1990s will only be compounded by the fact that there are more weapons in the country and greater incentives now for a lot more brutality than we have seen before.”
Afghan expert of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gilles Dorronsoro, also predicts renewed strife, but goes further to foresee a Taliban return to power.
“After 2014, the level of US support for the Afghan regime will be limited and, after a new phase in the civil war, a Taliban victory will likely follow,” he wrote in a recent analysis. “That claim is completely unrealistic,” Rondeaux says, noting that the often illiterate and poorly trained troops “have no air resources, zero logistical supply capability and zero real cohesion”.
The Taliban have also proved adept at tactics: if they lost territory in the south, they assassinated key officials, staged high-profile attacks that humiliated their enemies and infiltrated the Afghan security forces.
Last month, for example, they stormed onto one of the largest NATO bases in the country, destroying six fighter aircraft in the biggest single loss of air assets for the United States since the Vietnam War. One of the aims of the surge was to put so much pressure on the Taliban that they would come to the negotiating table, but the insurgents called off early contacts in March, accusing the US of constantly changing its position.
The New York Times reported this week that US generals and civilian officials have now all but written off the prospect of a Taliban peace deal.
Pakistan is widely accused of continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, who has havens on Pakistani soil. “The Taliban may not succeed completely in overthrowing the government in Kabul, but they can make life miserable and in certain areas.” afp