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October 3, 2015

Who is behind the chaos in Kunduz?

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October 3, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Chaos in Kunduz and other parts of northern Afghanistan is an alarm bell not only for Tajikistan and Uzbekistan but also for Pakistan and China. Afghan Taliban have expanded their fight beyond Kunduz and captured the Warduj district of Badakhshan province, which is connected to the Wakhan Corridor. This area in northeast of Afghanistan extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. Taliban took over Kunduz on September 28th but Nato evicted Taliban from the centre of the city. Fighting is still going on in Kunduz city due to lack of unity among local security forces.
Taliban vacated some parts of the Kunduz city on Friday after looting 10 banks. They got hold of Imam Sahib district and Qila-e-Zal district of Kunduz province. They entered in the neighbouring Takhar province and captured the Khwaja Ghar district. Taliban riding the snatched vehicles of Afghan security forces raced into another northern province Baghlan where they occupied the district of Tala wa Barfak which is home of many Ismailis. Taliban took control of many districts in nothern Afghanistan not because they are very popular among locals but due to the infighting within the Afghan Unity Government, which is no more united.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO of Afghan Govt Dr. Abdullah Abdullah recently blamed Pakistan for the growing instability in their country but a close look at the ground realities of northern Afghanistan may show an entirely different picture. The two doctors are talking against Pakistan these days but they are not unfolding the secret behind the fall of Kunduz on September 28. The fact is that President Ashraf Ghani appointed a highly qualified risk management expert Omar Safi as the Governor of Kunduz in December last year but the allies of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah from Kabul to Kunduz never cooperated with him. Omar Safi worked with the UN as a security officer for many years and finally he opened his own security company in Kabul. He supported

Dr. Ashraf Ghani and opposed Dr Abdullah Abdullah in the last presidential election. Dr. Ghani appointed him Governor of Kunduz without consulting Dr Abdullah Abdullah.
Ghani addressed his new governor and officials in Kunduz many times on video conferences. He tried to run the province through a fellow Pashtun who was not a local. Omar Safi made written complaints to Dr. Ashraf Ghani more than once that NDS and Afghan Interior Ministry were supporting and sheltering some criminals in the local police of Kunduz. He not only wanted to sack them but he also urged to arrest them. He informed many high-ups in Kabul that lot of non-Pashtun locals were joining the Taliban ranks just to get arms for the protection of their families because the local police were involved in crimes against innocent civilians but Dr. Ashraf Ghani ignored his written warnings.
A local Tajik militia commander Mir Alam belonging to Jamiat-e-Islami of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah became a big challenge for the Pashtun governor of Kunduz. Mir Alam was involved in a massacre of Pashtuns in Loy Kanam village in 2012. His militia recently battled with another non-Pashtun militia commanded by Haji Aziz. Both militias were responsible for policing in different parts of the provinces but instead they were involved in heinous crimes including drug trafficking. Governor Safi repeatedly made complaints to Kabul against these criminals in the uniform of police but nobody listened to him. Finally, he gave an interview to a local news agency and declared that 7,000 members of these militias were criminals. Mir Alam got angry with Governor Safi. He threatened him to leave Kunduz and the terrified governor quietly escaped from his palace. This infighting discouraged some regular police officials posted by Safi in Kunduz city. They also vacated their posts and finally Taliban took advantage of this administrative collapse in Kunduz.
I spoke to many people in Kabul and Kunduz. They say that proxy wars between the allies of Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah are benefiting the Taliban a lot in northern part of the country. The Afghan government has deployed more regular forces in the east, south and western parts due to growing attacks in those areas in recent past. The northern Afghanistan was comparatively peaceful in the last few years and that was why the control of provinces bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China was given to some private militias but this policy backfired. Taliban are recruiting non-Pashtun locals in the name of religion.They also collect a forced tax in the name of “Ushr” from local farmers but they promise to provide security to locals from the crimes of the government-backed local militias. Many people say there is no difference between Taliban and local police because both are involved in human rights violations. Insecurity and chaos forced thousands of people from Kundiz to Badakhshan to leave their homes. These displaced people are heading towards neighboring provinces, some want to cross into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and some of them have already entered the Chitral area of Pakistan. Some non-Pashtuns in the ranks of Taliban can also sneak in Chitral and they may create problems for the local Ismaili population.
The power struggle between two doctors of Afghanistan may result in instability in the whole region. Some power brokers in Kabul are trying to take advantage of this new chaos. They are suggesting to seek help from India. Will India send its troops to Afghanistan for fighting the Taliban? Many diplomats say that answer is no. What could be the ultimate result of this whole crisis? Insiders in Kabul say that Dr. Abdullah is mounting pressure on Dr. Ashraf Ghani to resign. Dr. Ghani is not ready to surrender. In case Dr. Abdullah resigns, the so-called unity government will collapse. The two doctors must stop fighting each other and stop blaming others for their own failures. Pakistan condemned the Taliban offense in Kunduz but the situation demands more than a statement. Pakistan must take some practical steps to strengthen the position of Dr. Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. Yes he is angry with Pakistan but he is the last hope of Pakistan in Afghanistan.

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