It is easy to panic when major changes are going on around you, but panic is unhelpful in a crisis—it only makes it worse. The goal for Afghan leaders, in and out of government, should be to plan and speak carefully right now, and not cause panic. The Afghan people must unite behind their National Army and Police—the alternative is chaos.
There is only one overarching goal for the Taliban terrorist network and their Pakistani sponsors—to divide and conquer in Afghanistan. Panic among Afghans only helps one nation right now and that is Pakistan.
Pakistan does not hold all the cards as they did when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan—but they want you to believe in their propaganda of an inevitable takeover of Afghanistan by Pakistani proxies. The Taliban, unlike the Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets, are despised by the majority of Afghans. The ANDSF, unlike the communist-era Army and Air Force, are respected by the Afghan people, respectful of the Afghan people, and highly capable. The ANDSF has an offensive capability that the Taliban fear. Most importantly the ANDSF has the continuing support of over 30 nations through the NATO-led coalition. The Taliban at best have Pakistan in their corner, but even that will have limits soon. Taliban terror network atrocities against women and children, humanitarians, and critical infrastructure will test even Pakistan’s patience.
future U.S. and NATO diplomatic missions for Afghans
The U.S. security training element already downsized and handed over control from a 3-star general this week to a 1-star U.S. officer, which is closer to the embassy military-footprint the U.S. had in 2002 when they started building the ANA. They will continue to closely partner with Afghan security sector teams.
In the near future, the Resolute Support Mission of NATO will end and transition into a diplomatic mission that focuses on sustaining and increasing the ANDSF capabilities. While details are still being worked out there are some indications about what comes next. Afghans should work hard to ensure these measures are put in place and that all NATO nations support the efforts fully.
As NATO Secretary General explained on June 14, the NATO mission will soon transition, yet continue supporting Afghanistan in four major ways: 1) funding Afghan security forces, training Afghan security forces, continuing their civilian presence, and maintaining critical infrastructure.
NATO will focus on enabling diplomats from other nations and humanitarian missions by keeping air travel in and out of Kabul flowing. They will likely ensure that healthcare capabilities and communications lines are strengthened in Kabul. They will manage much of the global funding of the ANDSF. It looks like over 3 billion dollars will be available to the new Security Force Development HQs to continue to help the ANDSF with various critical needs. NATO is working to establish training locations for Afghan Special Operations Forces outside of Afghanistan as well. NATO will likely be working to help ensure women are seen as critical, and equal, members of society through their positions and training in the ANDSF. Finally, NATO’s new diplomatic mission will be a partner to Afghans in any future peace negotiations to ensure no opportunities for peace are missed.
Unite, Do Not Divide
Afghans can avoid being divisive, and instead put all their efforts into rallying behind their nation’s heroes ensuring that recruitment and retention does not decline. Afghans can also put aside their differences and stand firmly behind the current Afghan government. For all its flaws, the government of Afghanistan is all that stands between Afghans and chaos. Every militia strong-man, social media influencer, and vocal Afghan should call for calm and unity. Every Afghan could help root out corruption and nepotism to ensure their Republic does not fall from within. There will be ample time after the Taliban are brought back into Afghan society peacefully, or by other means, to apportion blame and resolve feuds. Now is not that time.
Pakistan and the Taliban are counting on Afghans to fail to unite at this critical moment. Afghans should pressure those who are causing division, lowering morale, and sewing discord to become team-players. If Afghans cannot stand together, they will hang separately to the delight of the Pakistani proxy forces operating in Afghanistan. Those causing panic today should be held to account for weakening Afghanistan at the moment it needs to be at its strongest.