Afghan National Guards plan a prudent one

By Xiao Bin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/26 22:03:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As The National reported on September 17, the Afghan government plans to train 20,000 National Guard soldiers for the country's war on terrorism. National Guards, also called militia, are the civilian backup to a country's armed forces. A demanding security scenario has been behind the birth of this military force. The security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating since the withdrawal of international forces in 2014. Civilian deaths caused by terrorist attacks in the first half of 2017 alone were at a record high. Though the government has under its control 89 percent of the population and 60 percent of territory, uncontrolled regions have the strong presence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamic State and the Haqqani Network.

The government has been consolidating the military presence by doubling the number of the 17,000-strong special forces. The National Guards will not fundamentally change the security situation in Afghanistan, but may help in two ways.

They may work well to prevent emerging terrorist attacks and enable a rapid military response. In recent years, in government-controlled areas, especially Kabul and Kandahar, there have been frequent suicide bomb attacks that have kept the National Army and police busy, distracting them from crisis management. The National Guards are mostly locals, familiar with the neighborhood and the community, which can be an asset in dealing with anti-terror operations.

Besides, when terrorists strike, National Guards can reach the spot sooner and ensure order.

They may work well to help overworked public security forces and aid enhanced security-building capacity of local governments. The main troops fighting terrorism in Afghanistan are the 200,000-strong Afghan National Army and 160,000-strong Afghan National Police. These forces are hardly sufficient, for regions out of government control are to be retaken and public security in controlled regions is to be safeguarded. Meager revenues cannot provide for increased military expenses. So, it is prudent that the National Guards have been found to support the regular army and police.

However, there are concerns. A major worry has been discipline. Many believe that the National Guards may abuse power and violate human rights in the name of conducting anti-terror operations. Indeed, the Afghan government should be clear about placing the National Guards under the rule of law for them to fulfill the expected role.

For now, the idea of establishing the National Guards remains on paper and the Afghan government needs to carry out some more assessment.

As US President Donald Trump has approved sending more troops to Afghanistan, 3,000 soldiers will soon arrive and join anti-terrorism operations. Once American troops arrive and start operations, they will retake more regions. A certain strength of the presence of armed troops is needed to keep newly retaken areas in order, so that terrorists don't return once American forces leave.

American experts will conduct a thorough assessment of the plan and the National Guards will be required to collaborate with the Afghan National Army and American troops in order to improve security within the country and facilitate reconciliation. In this sense, the National Guards hold enormous significance.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russia, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


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