News / Asia

    Analysts: Ethnic, Political Divisions Pose Threat to Afghan Peace

    Afghan soldiers wait before the handover ceremony between French army and ANA (Afghan National Army) at the forward operational base of Nijrab as part of the withdrawal of the French troops November 20, 2012.
    Afghan soldiers wait before the handover ceremony between French army and ANA (Afghan National Army) at the forward operational base of Nijrab as part of the withdrawal of the French troops November 20, 2012.
    As the 2014 draw-down of international combat troops in Afghanistan nears, a lot of attention has been focused on whether the Afghan army can secure the nation from extremist militant groups, such as the Taliban. But former government and military officials say ethnic divisions and political factions could be as big a threat to peace in the country.
     
    The Afghan army is now some 184,000 strong. The police force numbers 146,000.
     
    Relying on just the personnel count gives the impression that Afghan security forces are nearing the targets for being able to defend the country from extremist threats.
     
    But former military and government officials are warning that the Taliban and terrorists are not the only threats Afghanistan will face in 2014. They say some ethnic warlords are starting to re-arm themselves for what could turn into an ugly fight for territory and influence.
     
    These ethnic divisions, which analysts say exist in the government, the army and even provinces controlled by warlords, could prove disastrous.
     
    "The fear is that after 2014 that the army will disband again, because there are different factions," noted Shir Khosti, the former governor of Ghazni province, "as most of these generals in the army are from the north, and now my understanding is that they are shifting heavy weapons to the north as well, and that is going to create a lot of problems in the future. [We] need to pay heed to these issues now, before it escalates to a level we cannot contain any more."
     
    The Taliban are present in most of Afghanistan, but are most resilient among their ethnic Pashtun base in the south. In the north, commanders of the former Northern Alliance, comprising ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara, hold sway.
     
    The head of Kabul's Military Training Center, Brig. Gen. Aminullah Patyani, says army recruits are a mix of all ethnic groups.

    He says, Pashtun, Tajiks, Uzbek, Hazara, Pashaei, Noorestani, Baluch -- all the nationalities that make up the nation of Afghanistan, can come here, that is how we are training here.
     
    After Soviet Union forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the country entered a brutal civil war, fought along largely ethnic lines.
     
    But analysts say the situation in 2014 will not be the same. They point to more civic institutions and expectations that the American military will maintain a presence of some 10,000 personnel in the country. But also they caution that much will depend on how well the army sticks together to face the challenges ahead.
     
    Khosti warns Pashtuns are underrepresented in the Afghan military, and army commanders tend to come from the north.
     
    Political analyst Khalid Mafton adds that many in Afghanistan's security forces, as well as in the ministries of defense and interior, have been appointed based on their affiliations with particular political and ethnic groups, making them vulnerable to ethnic conflict once international troops leave.
     
    Mafton said he is expecting the worst.
     
    "If the United States leaves the country, this army, because of the reasons I mentioned, will definitely collapse, maybe not within days or weeks, maybe with in a month, maximum, ok, so who will be replacing them? The Taliban," he said.
     
    Asked if he thought different groups in the country were beginning to stockpile weapons for possible conflict, Mafton's affirmation was an unequivocal "Yes."
     
    After three decades of war, and a thriving black market thanks to opium sales, analysts say there are more than enough weapons in the country to go around.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    City could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters

    Turkey Aims New Crackdown at Journalists, Academics, Airline Workers

    Ankara continues targeting people allegedly linked to exiled cleric, who it says led the failed military coup

    Pakistan Ready to Inaugurate Rebuilt Afghan Border Crossing

    Construction of Torkham Gate triggered deadly clashes between Pakistani and Afghan military forces

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora