During a visit to Afghanistan in 2009, I was told that a captured Taliban insurgent had pointed to the wristwatch of one of the soldiers and declared, “You have the watches but we have the time.”
With combat troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, this anecdote reveals the urgency around strengthening the institutions of the government so that it can survive against extremists.
This looming deadline puts the conflict in Afghanistan at a critical juncture as the Taliban increases its attacks by ramping up its guerrilla warfare tactics.
A tragic consequence has been the killing of international troops, including Australians, by Afghan soldiers and police undergoing training and with whom they are conducting joint operations.
This ruthless tactic has the obvious short-term goal of destroying the relationship between international forces and the Afghan army and police, thus reducing the effectiveness of the partnership aligned against the Taliban.
It is also aimed at reducing the effectiveness of training so that the Afghan military has less capacity than if full training and cooperation were maintained.
The longer-term goal of the extremists is to infiltrate the institutions of the Afghan government with a view to taking control after the withdrawal of international forces.
It is clear the Taliban believe this tactic can deliver a return to control of the nation, as the so-called "green on blue" attacks have increased rapidly over the past two years.
The Long War Journal estimates that these green on blue attacks have accounted for 15 per cent of all international casualties in Afghanistan this year, up from 2 per cent in 2010.
There were six such attacks reported in 2010, with 15 in 2011 increasing to 59 to date in 2012.
NATO has reacted with a suspension on joint operations with Afghan military personnel until all troops have been vetted for links to the Taliban and other groups such as the Haqqani network.
While this appears to provide the Taliban with an advantage of sorts, it should prove short term as the vetting process eliminates or greatly reduces the incident rate.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
16 posts so far.