The Situation in Afghanistan
Instability and armed conflict remains the norm in Afghanistan; those who are native to the region have not ceased to live in chaos. The country has been home to war and violence for centuries, invaded in turn by the Mongols, the Persians, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Most recently, in the 1990s, the Taliban seized control of the country, only to give way to another foreign occupation as members of a NATO coalition entered the country by force. Since 2001, when the Taliban was ousted, the Afghan government has struggled to protect its citizens and provide basic security. At one time, Afghanistan housed more than 100,000 American troops, in addition to forces deployed by other NATO members such as the UK and Germany. While the mission ended in 2014, more than 13,000 foreign troops have remained, tasked with training Afghan military and police forces. While as of late, there have been steps taken toward fair presidential elections by the Independent Election Commission, the overall security situation has declined rapidly in 2017.
The conflict has broadened in scope, as increased Taliban activity has been observed throughout the country. The number of instances of armed conflict between the government and Taliban forces increased by 22% in 2016 alone. Throughout 2017, a number of explosions have rocked the country, the most devastating being several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting government officials in Kabul, each of which killed and wounding hundreds of civilians. The number of civilian casualties has increased rapidly, and an estimated 940 civilian deaths in the capital this year have been caused by suicide bombings by the likes of the Taliban and ISIL. The largest attack, the May 31st detonation of an improvised trunk bomb, killed at least 150 people. Schools have been increasingly targeted, resulting in an uptick in child casualties and a decrease in access to education in the country.
Violence is not the only issue that the nation faces. Decades of corruption and instability have resulted in a loss of economic independence and a failing private sector. In addition, in 2016 alone, conflict has displaced more than 650,000 Afghans, putting significant pressure on the country’s relationship with neighboring nations. Last year, more than 370,000 refugees returned from Pakistan to their devastated home. Growing instability has also produced a lack of trust in the current administration, headed by President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah, spurring political protests and calls for impeachment. The government responded to the unrest by installing security devices such as additional checkpoints and cameras in Kabul, but attacks continue to take place. Increased violence and armed conflict within Afghanistan is expected, spurred in part by a recent increase in foreign military forces, which will come into more frequent contact with members of the Taliban and ISIL. This increase in violence may well further exacerbate the country’s economic dependence, the displacement of its citizens, and its overall instability in the months to come.