Afghanistan Defense and Security

By | December 16, 2021

The main threat to Afghanistan’s security is the Taliban insurgency. In addressing this problem, the country was supported by ISAF troops, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, which ended in the last months of 2014. Although 49 countries took part in the mission, the contribution by far more relevant in terms of men, means and costs was that of the USA. In 2011, for example, the expenditure authorized by the US Congress for operations in Afghanistan reached 120 billion dollars and, still at the end of 2013, 60,000 of the approximately 84,000 soldiers present in the country were Americans.

The increase in the number of troops of the ISAF contingent does not seem to have significantly improved the security of the country, which in recent years has rather experienced an increase in violence. On the one hand, the number of attacks by the Taliban has steadily increased; on the other hand, the losses of the international contingent have progressively increased (a figure only partly attributable to the increase in the number of troops).

The use by the Taliban of some cities of the Pakistani provinces with a Pashtun majority, the Fata, as a free port for organizing the Afghan uprising, highlighted the close ties, both ethnic and tactical-strategic, that exist between the insurgents and the Pakistan. For Afghanistan defense and foreign policy, please check

The efforts of the Islamabad government have so far proved insufficient to counter the Taliban strongholds on its territory. Precisely the limits of Pakistani action, combined with the resurgence of the insurrection, led the United States and NATO to try to unify the theater of operations by coining the concept of ‘Af-Pak’, which includes both states. Although international law prohibits extending the mandate of a mission on the territory of another state without the latter’s consent, the US continues to use unmanned aircraft to strike Taliban strongholds in Pakistan, encroaching on the latter’s airspace. and fueling vigorous protests especially among the civilian population. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2013 these attacks, which have intensified mainly since 2008, caused between 1500 and 2500 deaths. The solution of the Afghan dilemma therefore passes, more and more, beyond the borders of the country.

The Afghan Taliban: an endless struggle

Leading Afghanistan from 1996-2001, the Taliban were formally deposed by US-led international troops who invaded the country in the aftermath of the attacks on the Twin Towers, with the aim of uprooting the strongholds of al-Qaeda. in Taliban Afghanistan they had thrived.

Among the ranks of the Taliban who, in 1996, seized power in a Kabul torn by civil war, there were former Afghan mujahideen who had fought against the Soviet invasion in the period 1979-89, but also members of the Afghan Pashtun tribes who hoped, for their country, a strict adherence to the principles of Sunni Islam. Indoctrinated in Pakistani religious schools (madrasas) and trained by the secret services of Islamabad, who saw in the control of Afghanistan the possibility of obtaining the much-desired ‘strategic depth’ necessary to act as a counterpart to India on the rise, the Taliban managed to establish itself in Afghan politics as early as 1994. They achieved a series of successes on the ground that turned into territorial gains:

Formally removed from power in 2001, the Taliban continued the fight against the central Afghan administration led by Hamid Karzai. The Taliban today operate in Afghanistan in the manner of insurgency, often infiltrating the Afghan police forces and conducting ‘ green-on-green ‘ (against Afghan agents) or ‘ green-on-blue ‘ (against NATO forces) attacks.. According to the estimates of military analysts, there are approximately 25,000 insurgents Afghans fighting in their ranks. At the head of the organization remains Mullah Mohammed Omar, who had already been the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the period 1996-2001. Together with other senior Taliban commanders, Mullah Omar directs the ‘Shura of Quetta’, a sort of central council which, operating from the city of Quetta, in Pakistan, represents the decision-making center of the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban also count on the support of numerous other groups fighting in the name of Sunni extremism. Among these, the most important is the Haqqani Network, whose leader Jalaluddin Haqqani came into contact with bin Laden in the 1980s and later joined the Taliban in the 1990s. The Haqqani Network operates mainly along the Durand line, which separates Afghanistan from Pakistan,

Aware of the impossibility of stifling the Taliban insurgency, the United States has tried, since 2010, to combine counter-insurgency on the ground with a negotiating approach. A first exchange started in July 2011, hampered, already in September of the same year, by the assassination of former president Rabbani, who held the role of chief negotiator. In June 2013, the group of pragmatists gathering around Mullah Omar opened a political office in Qatar formally in order to facilitate talks; however, many saw behind this action an attempt to form a government in exile. Protests from the Afghan government in Karzai led to the closure of the office a few days after it opened.

The Taliban themselves, however, seem to be divided on the actual need for negotiation. The more pragmatic faction, which is believed to be the one closest to Mullah Omar, would seem aware of the need to reach an agreement, while the more radical faction would seem to be oriented towards intransigence and determined to resume the large-scale armed conflict already in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the international coalition in 2014.

Afghanistan Defense and Security