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.
Sharon Behn
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.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs