VIEW: Collapse of the Afghan army is not far —Musa Khan Jalalzai - Thursday, April 28, 2011

The US and NATO allies, who mostly rely on warlords and war criminals, must understand that the majority of the commanders and leaders of the alliance are former fundamentalist mujahideen and Taliban fighters

The cold war between the Afghan national army generals and the US/NATO commanders on civilian killings and the secret suicide units within the army and police force has exposed the failed military strategy of ISAF and NATO allies in bringing peace and stability to the country. As mistrust prevails, hindrances and hurdles increase. Recently, the Afghan army chief, General Sher Mohammad Karimi complained about the US mistrust of Afghan military intelligence information. Frustration within the army and police headquarters is increasing. Poverty-stricken and low paid soldiers, their poor living conditions, inadequate equipment and ethnically divided leadership have become big problems.

Defection is increasing while hundreds of soldiers are fleeing their battalions every month because they have no idea about the consequences of this unpopular war. They have been taught that by killing Taliban fighters, they will never win the title of shaheed or ghazi and will not even enter heaven. To escape the dangerous consequences of siding with NATO forces against the Taliban insurgents, the only way out is for them to defect or carry out suicide attacks within the army units. Afghan soldiers are not willing to fight the Taliban — they are anxious about the future of their families.

They are living in rented houses and need their salaries on time. They need medication and education of their children. The recent suicide attack carried out by an Afghan soldier in the defence ministry of Afghanistan is viewed by experts as a result of frustration. An Italian journalist, Mewati, reported that Afghan army personnel had close contacts with Taliban groups while recently a senior Afghan army official confirmed that 50 soldiers had reportedly abandoned their uniforms and joined the ranks of the Taliban.

In 2011, there has been a shift in the Taliban war strategy and suicide mission. They recruit suicide bombers for the Afghan national army to accomplish suicide missions. In some cases, Mewati disclosed that Pashtun soldiers of the army pass on secret information to Taliban groups and receive compensation. Mewati understands that discrimination in the Afghan army and the defection of soldiers to the Taliban, overtly or covertly, indicates that the collapse of the Afghan factional army is not far.

The ethno-sectarian infrastructure of the Afghan intelligence agencies and their way of politico-ethnic retaliation is another major problem for NATO allies. This ethnicised and sectarianised military and civil intelligence network cannot prevent warlordism, regionalism and federalism as it runs various terror networks in Pakistan. In my previous articles, I have already warned about the establishment of possible suicide units in the Afghan national army. The recent suicide attack in the Afghan defence ministry proved the reality that some elements in the defence ministry have established close contacts with Taliban insurgents. Senior government sources in Afghanistan said that the failed bomber’s name and other personal details were forwarded to London, suggesting that he had been living in Britain.

The US and NATO allies, which mostly rely on warlords and war criminals, must understand that the majority of the commanders and leaders of the alliance are former fundamentalist mujahideen and Taliban fighters. Their social, political and business relations with the Taliban groups are not hidden from the general public. Their direct and indirect control of the ethnically divided army is a sign of a future civil war. These non-professional commanders and warlords are considered to be a big hindrance in the way of building a competent, professional Afghan army.

As per my understanding, the Afghan army represents four main ideologies. A majority of the military generals, commanders and soldiers have three to four backgrounds — they have been nationalists, communists, mujahideen and Taliban as well. They remained in the army of king Zahir Shah and President Daud who were demanding an independent Pashtunistan. After the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, they became mujahideen. Civil war turned them against the mujahideen and they became Taliban and, finally, they took up arms against the Taliban, and are now planning to fight the US and NATO forces.

This contradictory and gloomy religious and military background of the Afghan army remains a major question. The clash of different political ideologies is more irksome. Fear about Taliban infiltration into the Afghan army units arose after an Afghan soldier carried out a suicide attack within the Afghan defence ministry.

This attack created more fear among Afghan officials, who are uneasy about their own safety and the fate of their country. A former head of the UN’s drug and crime office in Afghanistan, Dr Antonio Maria Costa, once said that Taliban sleeper cells had been set up inside the Afghan security forces. “We have plenty of evidence that we had a number of suicide attacks carried out by people who had been in the army, trusted because they were affiliated,” Dr Costa told the BBC. “Certainly there are sleeper cells, certainly there are individuals who are waiting for instruction to hit, and that is one of the biggest problems,” she said.

The Afghan police and army officials are dismayed at finding out how suicidals are infiltrating their rank and file. The screening of new recruits has been intensified. A surveillance system has been developed while some senate members in Afghanistan have demanded the resignation of Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. A Taliban commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a recent interview, revealed that Afghan intelligence agents are sharing information with militants about US and NATO troop movements. “The Afghan intelligence officials are sympathetic to the Taliban and they communicate the movements of the occupying forces (US and NATO) to us,” he said.

In February 2010, an Afghan military spokesman confirmed more than 25 Afghan soldiers had left their check post with heavy weapons in the eastern part of the country and had joined the Taliban. As we have experienced in the past 10 years, Afghan secret agencies are fighting in the wrong directions. During the Soviet intervention and civil war, Afghan intelligence agencies (KHAD, WAD and RAMA) mostly targeted Pashtuns in the northern parts of the country.

From Assadullah Sarwari to Amrullah Saleh, all intelligence heads were non-professional and not adequately qualified. They have been on the payroll, became political tools and treated their own people in a brutal way. We have no record of KHAD brutalities on hand — its records were either destroyed by the Taliban or were taken to Moscow by the KGB. However, one thing is clear: the agency still needs to be restructured. How many young Pashtuns were killed, disappeared and were falsely implicated in cases under the Amrullah Saleh leadership needs to be thoroughly investigated.

The writer is author of Britain’s National Security Challenges and can be reached at

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