By Musa Khan Jalalzai
November 26, 2013
The Pashtun soldiers, officers and even generals within the ANA and police force now openly discuss the illegality of the war on terror in Afghanistan
On June 15, 2013, Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Muhammadi urged Afghan National Army (ANA) officers and soldiers to show unity and pride as part of the ANA that would be taking the lead from the US and NATO troops in fighting domestic and international terrorism. Mr Khan praised his generals for training soldiers from all ethnic and religious minorities but said that ethnic concordance is a must. From 2005 to 2007, being an executive editor of Daily Outlook Afghanistan, I still remember how Army chief Bismillah Khan ordered officers and security guards from his ministry to prevent Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak from entering his office. He was adamant in saying that the defence minister was an ISI agent because of his Pashtun identity. General Wardak belonged to the National Islamic Front party while Mr Khan belonged to the Northern Alliance. This irreconcilable policy of Mr Khan further divided the defence ministry on ethnic lines.
Moreover, four months later, the army chief dismissed another Pashtun lady general, Mrs Khatool Ahmadzai, allegedly for her slight kissing moment with a NATO general. This decision created a formidable resentment of Pashtun officers against the army chief and his plan of ethnicisation of the ANA. Later on, Mr Bismillah Khan realised his mistake and reinstated General Khatool to her post.
Warlords still control important posts in the interior, foreign, intelligence and defence ministries and have also dragged intelligence agencies into this war. Military intelligence never investigated ethnic rivalries within the army headquarters and other institutions because its officers are also involved in corruption, land grabbing, arms and the drug trafficking business. Mr Bismillah Khan has failed to address ethnic and sectarian issues within his divided force.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2011, the issue of ethnic representation within the ANA and police ranks has not been addressed properly. Ethnic representation and discrimination in the ANA and the police has been a major concern during the last 12 years. A majority of Tajik generals and officers are illiterate and have no basic knowledge of civil and military affairs. The power division between non-Pashtun and Pashtun generals within the defence, intelligence and interior ministries is pushing the country towards another civil war. According to a US report (2012), the division in the ANA, and ethnic hatred and factionalism within the ranks of the army is a matter of great concern. Ethnic favouritism is on the rise.
In July 2013, the US defence department published a detailed report in which ethnic representation in the ranks of the ANA was focused upon with deep concern. In that report, Tajiks were shown as over-represented, Uzbeks under-represented and Pashtun representation as disproportionate. The Pashtun soldiers, officers and even generals within the ANA and police force now openly discuss the illegality of the war on terror in Afghanistan. They understand that Panjsheri warlords, Dostum and their cronies imposed an unnecessary war on the Pashtun. In army headquarters, they blame each other for the destruction of their country.
Now, the ANA generals and officers have gotten weary in the endless battle against the Taliban. They want peace but are divided on the peace process. The poor, illiterate and corrupt leadership, lack of accountability and reported sexual assaults have caused attrition. There are 1,700 to 1,800 women police officers in the ANP but they face serious challenges including the challenge of sexual abuse. In Mazar-e-Sharif, and Balkh and Kunduz provinces, according to a US-based public radio report (2012), senior policemen demand sexual favours in exchange for promotions. The same story is being repeated in the ANA as well. A negative attitude towards women officers, sexual demands and verbal abuse has forced hundreds of women officers to leave the armed forces. Women working in the army have no separate toilets — they have been reported to have been raped and abused in shared toilets by ANA officers.
Without any proper training of intelligence information collection to prevent the Taliban infiltration into the ANA’s rank and file, Afghan military intelligence is unable to process any kind of information. The leadership of the Afghan military intelligence has purchased expensive houses in major provinces of the country. Another secret agency, RAMA, which was established under the auspices of Indian intelligence agency RAW in 2009, is working in an adverse direction. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) works for the CIA while the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, is doing a different business.
Iran has also increased its military and intelligence influence within the ranks of the Afghan intelligence agencies. Iranian intelligence has established several networks across Afghanistan and fixed salaries for the NDS’s double agents. In Northern Afghanistan, Iran’s various intelligence activities, including signal intelligence, human intelligence and counterintelligence, are operating under the auspices of the ministry of intelligence and security (MOIS), known as VEVAK.
This squabble and these ethnic rivalries have forced ordinary ANA soldiers and officers to rethink their loyalties. Their wretchedness and misery, and the vulnerable future of their children, have raised serious questions. Their defection to insurgent forces is understandable from the fact that a corrupt and moribund Afghan army can no longer serve the interests of the state — they are serving the interests of the CIA and Pentagon generals. Last month, Special Forces Commander Monsif Khan in Kunar province defected to the Gulbeddin Hekmatyar group. The provinces of Herat, Farah, Badghis, Paktia and Kandahar are reporting the highest number of desertions.
The Afghan local police (ALP) have been running a chromite extraction operation in Kunar province for over a year. Not only the ALP but ANA officers are also involved in robbing their country’s mineral resources. Illegal extraction of mineral resources in several provinces of northern Afghanistan is a matter of great concern. Now, as this corrupt and ethnically divided army is unable to defend its country, President Karzai has again started begging NATO, the US and UK for military cooperation after the end of 2014. Mr Karzai wants a bilateral security agreement, which will enslave his country for another 50 years. This agreement will increase further involvement of the Pentagon and CIA in Afghan security affairs after 2014.
Since no functioning state and economy was created by the US and NATO states in Afghanistan during the last 12 years, once their forces withdraw, civil war and chaos will return. In October 2013, a Taliban leader warned that, by 2015, they would restore the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.
Musa Khan Jalalzai is the author of Punjabi Taliban