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Resurgent Taliban and a government in disarray

Masood Saifullah
July 25, 2017

The Taliban are gaining strength in Afghanistan, as is evident from Monday's Kabul attack, but President Ghani seems to have other "pressing issues" at hand – for instance, thwarting a powerful opposition alliance.

Afghan Taliban
Image: Imago/Xinhua/Milad

On Monday, a car bomb in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed 26 people and injured more than 41. A day earlier, armed men stormed a hospital in the central province of Ghor and massacred 35 people. The authorities blamed the Afghan Taliban for both attacks.

Heavy fighting between Islamist militants and Afghan forces is ongoing in a number of provinces, mainly Baghlan, Badakhshan and Kunduz in the country's north and Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan in the south.

Read: Taliban carry out mass kidnapping in Afghanistan's Kandahar province

The Taliban and other jihadist groups have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan. At least 1,662 civilians have been killed in the first half of the year alone, according to UN statistics. Apart from the Taliban, terrorist groups like the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are also expanding their activities in the country.

Ashraf Ghani Sicherheitskonferenz Kabul
Irrespective of domestic opposition, Ghani has managed to sustain his international supportImage: Reuters/O.Sobhani

Critics say that instead of dealing with the enormous threat posed by an organized jihadist force, the government of President Ashraf Ghani is in disarray and busy dealing with internal political rifts.

The situation is further aggravated by an unclear US policy for Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump is yet to determine how he wants to counter an increasing Taliban and IS threat in Afghanistan, a country where thousands of US troops are stationed.

Read: Afghanistan: 'This war cannot be won with bombs'

Misplaced priorities

The number of Afghan politicians parting ways with President Ghani is growing by the day. The country's vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, the governor of the northern Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Nur, and a deputy to Afghanistan's chief executive are among those influential figures in Afghan politics that have turned against Ghani. These politicians recently formed an alliance against Ghani's government, calling for political reforms and power sharing in Kabul.

Read: What does China want to achieve in Afghanistan?

The warlords joining hands against the government is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. What raises the political stakes for Ghani is that a number of technocrats, who enjoy the backing of the international community, have also raised concerns about the president's style of governance. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, national security adviser to former President Hamid Karzai, is one such technocrat-politician and part of a different opposition bloc.

"Ghani never fulfilled his election promises. There have been no reforms, the 2014 power-sharing deal was never implemented and the security situation has deteriorated, especially in the country's north," Atta Mohammad Nur, governor of the northern Balkh province, told DW.

"A small circle of people in Kabul makes all decisions. This needs to change," said Nur, who supported Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during the 2014 presidential elections.

Deadly Kabul car bombing kills dozens

While the president denies these accusations, experts say that Ghani is playing a dangerous political game at a very crucial time for Afghanistan.

"People are dying in armed attacks every day, but the president and his ministers are busy with internal politics," Sadiq Patman, a Kabul-based political analyst, told DW.

"The government's priority should be bringing peace to the country," he added.

Unchecked international support

Irrespective of domestic opposition, Ghani has managed to sustain his international support. The Afghan president has proven himself a reliable partner for the United States and the international community. He was successful in convincing NATO to continue funding the Afghan government during the Warsaw Summit in 2016. He has also been able to increase international pressure on Pakistan, which he accuses of supporting jihadists.

Read: 'Trump administration has zero patience for Pakistan's terror policy'

But experts say that one of the reasons behind Afghanistan's deteriorating security situation is an unchecked international support for Ghani.

"Ghani relies on international backing, which sometimes makes him forget that he needs local support as well," Patman said, calling on the international community to hold Ghani accountable and limit their support to the Afghan government.