Essay: Afghanistan the Current Situation

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The current situation in Afghanistan is not improving as was hoped for given the massive and expensive American and NATO intervention. There are crises and serious issues in the country including: a) the lack of a competent, well-trained military defence force; b) a lingering legacy of poverty and hopelessness; and c) the re-emergence of the Taliban, a radical Islamic fighting force that was ousted from Afghanistan after 9/11 but is coming back as a disruptive insurgency. These issues will be presented in this paper.

The Afghanistan National Army -- Not Competent and Not Ready

One of the main reasons why the United States and NATO have pumped billions of dollars in aid and in military might into Afghanistan was to be able to hold off the Taliban while training Afghanistan's own military forces. Initially the U.S. intervened simply in response to the bin Laden-led al Qaeda use of training grounds in Afghanistan -- terrorists were welcomed into Afghanistan by the then ruling power structure, the Taliban -- to attack the U.S. On September 11, 2001. But the plan to secure Afghanistan from insurgency is not succeeding as well as it was hoped for, according to the literature on this topic. In fact, at this time, the Afghan security forces are currently not well enough trained to be able to take over the security of their nation. That is the sum and substance of an article in Time, written by journalist John Wendle, who points out that in March of 2011 members of the Afghan parliament voiced serious concerns about the lack of military preparedness in their country. Is the time right to transfer the security of the nation over to its own military units?

"The time is not right for a transition to Afghan security forces," according to Golali Akbari, who is an elected member of the upper house of parliament in Afghanistan (Wendle, 2011, p. 1). "They are not ready," she insisted. "They are not well trained, and they are not commanded and organized well," Akbari told Time magazine. At the same time Akbari and other leaders in Afghanistan were expressing concerns about the competency of the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and local law enforcement, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 37 people and caused serious wounds to 40 others at an Army center for recruitment of new soldiers in Kunduz, Wendle explained.

An article in the National Public Radio (NPR) Website quotes U.S. commanders in Afghanistan saying that the abilities of the Afghan forces "are at best 'spotty'" and they are clearly not ready to stand up to the Taliban on their own (Bowman, 2012, p. 2). Journalists reporting for NPR have accompanied U.S. And NATO forces on patrols with Afghan forces. On those patrols, in some instances, U.S. Marines had planned and led the patrols and even went to the point of "…talking with villagers through an interpreter, while the Afghan forces stood and watched" (Bowman, p. 2).

Retired Lt. General Dave Barno -- former commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan -- recently authored a white paper that called for more training for Afghan forces. The current situation with Afghan forces is that they are "largely untested -- and are perhaps far from ready," according to Barno (Bowman, p. 3).

In addition to being ill prepared to take over the security of its own country, a significant percentage of the Afghanistan National Police (ANP) are using illegal drugs. An article in the peer-reviewed journal Military Medicine reports that drug abuse has become "increasingly common" among ANP soldiers (Arfsten, et al., 2012). In fact the use of cannabis and opiates has been reported to be "rampant" in the ANP, Arfsten reports (based on drug testing by British and American personnel); also, in Helmand Province tests showed that upwards of 60% of ANP troops are taking drugs on a regular basis (Arfsten, p. 1).

In another report by the U.S. State Department, between 12% and 41% of ANP recruits at Regional Training Centers tested positive for drug usage, and the authors of the report believe the percentage of regular drug users -- within the ANP and those recruited to become part of the ANP -- is much higher, due to the fact that opium does not remain in the system for long (Arfsten, p. 1).

A new report from the Pentagon shows that based on data that was previously classified, units of the Afghan Local Police are becoming "deeply entangled" in corruption and criminal activity including taking bribes and extorting money from citizens (Cloud, et al., 2012). One in five American special operations teams have complained that Afghan Local Police use drugs, take bribes, rape women in local towns, and traffic in drugs (Cloud, p. 1).

Afghanistan's Society Suffers from Severe Poverty, Poor Health, and More

An article in the peer-reviewed journal Iranian Studies (Schutte, 2009, p. 466) asserts that Afghanistan is considered "…one of the most destitute nations in the world" and there has been a rapid growth of poverty among the urban population (Schutte, 466). Some of the statistics that show the extent of poverty and hopelessness in the country include: a) a mortality rate of 14.2% for children under the age of five; b) the illiteracy rate among males is 40% and among females -- who are often denied access to education -- is 72%; c) some 66% of children in Afghan cities are malnourished; and d) 71% of children in Kabul do not have access to safe drinking water (Schutte, 466).

Afghanistan was poor when the Taliban came into power in the 1990s, and it remains very poor today. And the article written by Schutte shows that while cities sprawl out into the wilderness much like urban sprawl in Western countries, that sprawl is not "…a focus for growth and prosperity" but instead it is a "dumping ground" for a "surplus population" that is generally employed in jobs that pay very low wages (467). Kabul has grown from about 2 million people in 2001 to 3.5 million in 2005, Schutte explains (470); hence it is the fastest growing city in the central and south Asian region and moreover, the growth has led to "an increase in the number of poor and vulnerable populations."

A majority of citizens in Kabul live in "makeshift" housing and employment opportunities for unskilled and illiterate workers is at best "irregular" and not reliable in the long run, Schutte concludes (470).

An article in the peer-reviewed Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business reports that Afghanistan lacks a proper governmental infrastructure, has very little educational facilities and lacks health facilities to serve its people. About 8 million people in Afghanistan face famine today, the authors assert. The problem of poverty in Afghanistan is a "multidimensional problem" that results from several things: a) a lack of health and social services; b) mental disorders resulting from the instability caused by ongoing wars; and c) wounds from war, both psychological and physical (Kataria, et al., 2011, p. 392). Just 25% of citizens in Afghanistan have access to clean water gives a clear idea of why so many people are poor and in poor health as well (Kataria, 392).

The Re-emergence of the Taliban: The Biggest Crisis in Afghanistan

Although the U.S. -- using a massive assault from the air -- chased the Taliban out of Afghanistan in 2001, a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the radical Islamic terrorist group is gaining footholds in Afghanistan again. Quentin Sommerville, a journalist with the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) reports that the Taliban continue to fight hard while the Americans are removing their bases. This is an article that reflects the fact that as the Americans get ready to leave Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces are not up to the task of defending their homeland against the Taliban.

In the case of the Combat Outpost Kushamond, the largest U.S. base that has closed in Afghanistan, the Americans are not handing the base over to the Afghani troops, and for good reason. While many Afghan soldiers are literate, they only received an education through the primary grades. A person with that level of education is not going to be able to read and understand a mechanical engineering manual, hence, there is no point in the Americans leaving equipment behind as they gradually pull out (Sommerville, 2012, p. 1).

After the recent bold suicide attack (in April) on Afghan security forces in Kabul, the senior civilian representative from NATO, Sir Simon Gass was quoted saying that it may never be possible "…to ensure that Kabul is entirely safe" (Sommerville, p. 2).

One important thing the Taliban have going for them -- besides time, the withdrawal of American forces, and a willingness to die for what Westerners see as a fanatical cause -- is the fact that Afghanistan is the world's leader in opium production. Indeed Afghanistan may be one of the world's most remote, poor, and backward regions, and yet Afghanistan produces… [END OF PREVIEW]

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