The portents look bleak

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With regard to piece in Afghanistan

With the mistrust between the Afghan security forces and the ISAF personnel owing to insider attacks – four taking place in last month alone – the portents for the prospect of peace in Afghanistan look bleak. The latest incident casts a dark shadow. An ASF (Afghan Special Forces) commander defected to the Taliban in his military-issue Humvee, along with his 20-strong team’s guns and other high-tech equipment. The incident reminds one of the grimness the precarious situation after the US withdrawal in 2014 and the Taliban making a full throttle thrust.

Governing Afghanistan has never been easy, not even when the Taliban held sway. Its vast area, sparse population, conservative tribal society and the lack of writ of an established government make the task almost impossible. The latest incident has only brought to fore an issue that the NATO forces have always been facing. It also keeps popping up in talks between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) capacity to handle militants effectively being in serious question, Monsif Khan, the commander in the infamous incident, has shaken whatever little trust remained. If this is the harbinger of the times to come, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US ought to be worried. If the terrorists are successful in gaining control of the provinces bordering Pakistan, and ultimately Kabul, there is little chance of peace being a possibility. In that scenario what is worse for Pakistan: an influx of refugees, presenting its own set of economic and security challenges that an already cash-strapped and weary and burdened by terrorism Islamabad would not like to countenance.

However, with the combined effort of the three nations involved, the situation can still be contained. Pakistan and the US particularly need to work together not only on post-2014 drawdown but also on the lead up to that. Afghanistan meanwhile needs to ensure that its security forces stay loyal to the state and are ready to take on the challenges posed by terrorists. The recently agreed upon understanding allowing the US forces to stay and operate in the country even after 2014 may have some measure of deterrence against the militants. However, to optimize the benefit from that, the Afghan government must first show its willingness to work with the US and Pakistan to strengthen its security apparatus. That is the only option to make sure that terrorism on both sides of the Durand Line is contained.