One of the leading British charities, Oxfam, has published a report entitled No Time to Lose, where it states that Afghan security forces are not ready to take over the responsibility for keeping peace and security in the country – the tasks presently carried by NATO forces. The report cites numerous human rights violations and insufficient training of the local security forces.
"There is a serious risk that unless adequate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of human rights and humanitarian law will escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price," the report says.
The report also estimates that 40,000 Afghan police officers have had no training at all. Oxfam says there are no effective systems for civilians to lodge complaints against police or soldiers.
In fact, the report does not disclose anything new – the inadequacy and unaccountability of local Afghan police and security forces has been an “open secret” for years since the NATO invasion in 2001. And within this period the situation has only deteriorated.
But what is important, is the timing and the context for such a report.
The assassination of Osama bin Laden has given rise to increasing demands that NATO (and above all, the US) should withdraw their forces from Afghanistan at the earliest possible deadline. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are no longer ready to tolerate the excessive Western presence.
On the other hand, both the US administration and the military are more and more often stating that the previously designed deadline – 2014 as the year of complete NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan – is becoming more and more distant and indefinite.
This reflects the growing uncertainty concerning the future of Afghanistan felt both in Kabul and in Washington.
For Obama, the kind of withdrawal from Afghanistan that would result in the comeback of the Taliban would mean a political defeat. For Hamid Karzai’s government, it could amount to its physical elimination. Therefore, the strategic goals of the two anti-Taliban parties are more and more divergent. While the US and NATO seek a complete victory over the Taliban, Hamid Karzai and his party are seeking some kind of compromise which would not guarantee their participation in the power-sharing in the future Afghanistan, but might guarantee at least their personal survival and security of whatever assets they possess now.
In this context, the Oxfam report is definitely meant mostly for the Western public. Its purpose is to give additional arguments for the prolongation of NATO’s stay in Afghanistan (which is becoming more and more unpopular in the West).
In fact, the present-day situation in Afghanistan can be described as what is called a stalemate in chess – neither party is able to win, but there is no viable move for any of the parties. The complexity of the situation as compared to a chess game is that there are three instead of two players – the West (the US and NATO), the Taliban and the present Afghan government. And an alliance between any two of the parties could look possible but for the presence of the third party.
Therefore, once the Western forces are withdrawn, the situation will result either in an overall Taliban triumph, or in some kind of Taliban participation in the power sharing. That, as pointed out above, would mean a complete failure of all the years of Western military presence in the country with extremely negative consequences for the ruling parties in major Western powers.
Western military presence is the only factor that prevents such a liaison between Hamid Karzai’s government and the Taliban. But the prolongation of this presence needs to be explained to the Western public. Therefore, the Oxfam report comes in very handy and just in time. And human rights arguments is something that the Western public is always eager to consume – whether it is true or not.