The blast in Kabul’s supreme court on Tuesday that left at least 20 people dead, underscores the growing insecurity in Afghanistan. The suicide attack once again reveals the capability of terrorist outfits in Afghanistan to target even the most secure places in the national capital. In the past the Taliban have targeted the court and even the Parliament building.
The government of Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack and vowed a tough response. But beyond the rhetoric, Kabul’s anti-terror strategy has hardly been effective, considering the inroads insurgents have made in the recent years. After most foreign troops withdrew in 2014, the Taliban have steadily stepped up attacks, expanding the civil war into residential areas.
According to a UN report, 2016 was the bloodiest year for Afghan civilians since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001. The Taliban’s territorial control has grown in strength. Last year it had briefly overrun the northern city of Kunduz and threatened to attack several other population centres. A report by Sigar, a U.S. Congressional watchdog, says around 28% of Afghans now live in territories over which government troops and the Taliban have been fighting.
The Ghani government had initially sought an agreement with the Taliban and reached out to Pakistan, which has some influence over the group. But this yielded nothing. Kabul failed to cash in on an internal power struggle within the Taliban after the 2015 disclosure about the death of its leader, Mullah Omar. The Taliban survived the death of Omar’s successor, Mullah Mansoor, in a U.S. drone strike. The Taliban have over time built resources and a strong insurgent army to fight a long war with the elected government. The question is whether the government, facing factionalism and corruption allegations, is ready for it.
For Kabul, the threat is multiplying. The Islamic State has established some presence in the country and declared a “province” of the ‘Caliphate’ in eastern Afghanistan: Wilayat Khorasan. To turn its fortunes around in the 15-year-old civil war, Afghanistan needs to strengthen the administration. Mr. Ghani should initiate the administrative reforms he had promised and put up a stronger, united fight against terrorist groups. Kabul should seek more help and a higher level of commitment from its allies like USA and INDIA.