Three years ago after a controversial election, the Then-US Secretary of State John Kerry came to Afghanistan and brokered a deal between the two leading candidates according to which the two sides agreed to split power by 50-50 among themselves and Ashraf Ghani was announced as the Afghan President and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as the Chief Executive. Hence, the National Unity Government (NUG) was formed, and the post-election crisis ended.
Here we have briefly evaluated the security, economic and political situation in the country in the past three years.
The Security Situation
After the formation of the NUG, besides deterioration of the security situation in the country, the geography of war also shifted from the South of the country to the North, and unlike the past, the war in Northern provinces began to intensify. Besides the collapse of several districts in the Northern provinces of the country, Kunduz city also fell into the hands of the Taliban.
In 2015, from 398 districts in the country, 31 were under the control of the Taliban, in 36 other districts the Taliban controlled the suburbs and the government controlled only the centers of the districts, according to the report of the “Long War Journal” released in October 2015. According to SIGAR’s report, in 2016, 33 districts in 16 provinces of the country were under the control or influence of the Taliban, and in many others, the war continued. The report also added that only about 63.4% of the Afghan territory was under the control of the Afghan government. Hence, in 2016 the armed opposition of the government-controlled almost one-third of the country.
On the other hand, the increase in the civilian casualties was concerning as well. UNAMA had reported that between 1 January and 30 December 2015, there were 11002 civilian casualties in Afghanistan which showed an increase compared to 2009 and 2014. Moreover, based on the report of UNAMA, in the first six months of the current year (2017), 1662 Afghan civilians were killed in the armed engagements between the various parties of the war and explosions and 3581 civilians were injured while within the same period in 2016, 1601 civilians were killed, and 3565 others were wounded.
Besides the high number of civilian casualties, the casualties of the Afghan security forces are also on the rise after the formation of the NUG. According to the report of SIGAR, 5000 Afghan soldiers are killed, and 15 thousand others are injured in the war against the government’s armed opposition in 2015. However, the statistics of 2016 by the same organization shows that between 1 January and 12 November 2016, 6785 Afghan soldiers are killed, and 11777 others are injured. However, the death toll of the Afghan forces in the current year is on the rise. The recent report of SIGAR writes that only from the 1 January to 8 May 2017, 2531 Afghan soldiers are killed, and 4238 others are wounded.
The deadly airstrikes of the foreign forces have also cost the lives of Afghan civilians and sometimes even the lives of the Afghan forces while the Afghan government remained silent against these attacks.
On the other hand, within this period, the activities of the ISIL in the Eastern Afghanistan was another challenge that the Afghan security forces had to deal with. ISIL had started a war on two fronts against both the Afghan government and the Taliban. Despite efforts by the Taliban and the Afghan government, ISIL not only was not suppressed but extended its influence in the other provinces of the country and carried out several bloody attacks and explosions in the country. Although the Khurasan branch of ISIL, which operates in Afghanistan, was weakened to some extent, the attacks carried out by this group in 2016 showed that it is a group to be reckoned with in Afghanistan. The bloodiest attack by this group was the explosion that hit the demonstrators of the “Enlightenment Movement” in Dehmazang area of Kabul which killed and injured about 400 people. The ISIL fighters continued their fight during 2017. The most deadly attack by this group in 2017 was the explosion in the parking of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan on 7 February which left 21 killed and 41 wounded.
In its first days of formation, the NUG activated its foreign policy in order to secure peace in the country. The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan aiming to start peace talks with the armed oppositions of the Afghan government. As a result of these efforts, a meeting on the Afghan peace process was held in Urumqi in China, but this meeting did not resulted in specific outcomes. Later in Murree a touristic area near Islamabad, the first face to face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban took place.
The Murree talks came to a halt after the disclosure of the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar, and after that, the Afghan-Pak relations was deteriorated for the first time after the formation of NUG. After months of tensions in the Kabul-Islamabad relations; due to the joint efforts of the regional countries and the United Nations once again the relations between the two countries improved and as a result, the Quadrilateral Peace talks between the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan began. However, these talks did not produce any desirable outcomes either.
The peace efforts reached a stalemate when the Afghan government undertook vast operations to push back the Taliban and used threatening rhetoric against them instead of an efficient peace strategy. Nevertheless, in this regard, the peace deal with Hizb-e-Islami was an achievement for the Afghan government.
Currently, there is not much hope to reach peace in the country and in the new US strategy towards Afghanistan more focus in on the fight against the Taliban, a policy that has been a failure in the past one and half decade.
The 50-50 division of power raised oppositions between the two leaders of the country since ever the beginning, and these oppositions reached its heights when the Afghan Chief Executive publicly criticized the President about his deeds after two years of the formation of the NUG, and when he claimed that the NUG agreement was not implemented properly.
On the other hand, tensions between the President and the First Vice President were another wave of internal disputes. At the beginning of 1395, General Dostum fiercely criticized President Ghani saying that Ghani has not given him his proper share in the government. He also accused the president of nepotism.
While internal disputes were continuing, the case of Ahmad Ishchi came forward and made these disputes even deeper. General Dostum who was now accused of sexual assault on Ishchi formed the coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan along with Jamiat-e-Islami and Hezb-e-Wahdat in Ankara city of Turkey.
In the meanwhile, General Dostum’s airplane was prevented from landing in Mazar-e-Sharif airport which in turn fueled the internal disputes. Currently, it seems that the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan is about to get dismantled because Abdullah Abdullah had traveled to Mazar-e-Sharif and it is said that he aims to settle the disputes between Atta Mohammad Noor and the Central Government.
Overall, disputes among the leaders of the NUG consistently existed which was being settled after a while with the mediation of either individuals from within the country or some foreigners.
During the three years of the NUG, Foreign Policy was one of the areas in which the NUG had some achievements. The NUG succeeded to attract international aid through its foreign policy. The Afghan government presented its scheme for reforms in London Conference 2014, which were warmly welcomed by the international community and 59 countries pledged to support Afghanistan. The Afghan government attracted the support of NATO and European countries as well.
Moreover, the NUG have had achievements in areas of regional integration as well. The TAPI project, CASA-1000 and the agreement that give Afghanistan a part in “one belt, one road” were the most important achievements in this regard.
The Afghan government also signed trade and transit agreements such as the agreement of Chabahar port between Afghanistan, Iran, and India in Jawza 1395 [solar month and year]. Moreover, using railway, trade between China and Afghanistan through Tajikistan and Kazakhstan also commenced.
Also, NUG made some efforts to attract military aids from China, India, and Russia and in this regard, China and India even extended some contributions as well.
During the NUG’s tenure, some infrastructural projects were completed and inaugurated. One of these projects was the Salma Dam which was built by India in Herat Province. Moreover, the agreement to expand the Kajaki Dam and the installation of four additional turbines in this dam, the agreement to build the Bakhshabad Dam in Farah Province, the Kamal Khan Dam and agreements to construct many small and big dams were other achievements of the NUG.
On the other hand, the increase in the revenues of the NUG is also noteworthy, which was due to some steps by the Afghan government. For instance, taxing the communication networks’ credit played a role in increasing the incomes of the government and last year the Afghan government for the first time in the past several years collected more revenues than it had estimated.
Despite all these developments and activities, the Afghan economy is deteriorating compared to the past one and half decade. The value of Afghani is fallen, unemployment has increased, the country is facing the capital flee, and the country’s economic growth is dropping. That is why hundred thousands of Afghans took dangerous paths towards Europe. In addition, corruption was not eradicated which besides the people it also encountered the NUG with many challenges.