Putting Afghans Forces in Charge Raises Concerns

Afghan police keep watch at a checkpoint in Kabul, April 10, 2012.
Afghan police keep watch at a checkpoint in Kabul, April 10, 2012.

U.S. and Afghan military leaders have called the agreement transferring leadership for night raid operations to Afghan forces a major milestone towards Afghanistan's sovereignty. But as Some analysts have raised concerns that the process was driven by political expediency and that the Afghan military and judiciary are not capable of fulfilling the agreement.

Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi says the compromise reached Sunday putting night raids under Afghan leadership resolved a source of tension between the Afghan government and U.S. military.

He says the "Afghan-ization" of special operations is a big achievement for the country in maintaining stability and the joint struggle against terrorism.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said the raids by foreign troops are provocative and increase public resentment against international forces. NATO commanders defended the operations, saying they are extremely effective in disrupting insurgent operations and apprehending Taliban and al-Qaida commanders.

U.S. and Afghan military leaders say by putting Afghan special forces in charge and requiring an Afghan judge to authorize each night raid operation, the agreement addresses the concerns of both sides.

Lack of capability

But Samina Ahmed, South Asia security analyst with the International Crisis Group, says the agreement will produce nominal change at best. She says the Afghan forces will continue to rely on the U.S. to direct and support operations, and that the Afghan judiciary lacks the training and authority to ensure that the Afghan special forces, police and local militias protect human rights and follow the rule of law.

“The legal system in Afghanistan is very weak. At best, it's incapable of implementation because the judicial arm has been so neglected,” said Ahmed.

The agreement also calls for prisoners apprehended in special forces operations to be held by Afghan authorities. This follows another recently signed deal to transfer Afghan detainees to Kabul's custody. Human rights groups have raised questions about the treatment of those held in Afghan prisons and have detailed incidents of torture and abuse. The Afghan government has denied these allegations.

Political goal

These agreements put the U.S. and Afghanistan on track to reach an important political goal - to develop a long-term strategic partnership pact ahead of a May NATO summit in Chicago. The partnership pact will authorize a reduced U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 withdrawal of most Western combat troops.

Ahmed says the flurry of political progress is not being matched by the training and development of a professional Afghan army.

“In our assessment, the ANSF - the Afghan National Security Forces - are not capable of taking on the challenge of protecting ... the state against any kind of violation, whether it is within or from outside Afghanistan's borders,” she said.

She says increased anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and a growing antiwar consensus in America may be changing the political dynamics, but the military reality is that Afghan forces are not yet ready to take the lead.

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