Afghanistan: Afghanistan June 2024 Update


June 8, 2024: The IEA (Islamic Emirate Afghanistan) government praised neighboring Kazakhstan for accepting the current Afghan government rather than considering it a terrorist organization. At the same time the IEA continues its policy of limiting education for women. Currently girls must leave school when they reach 12 years of age. For the third year in a row, women were not allowed to take university entrance examinations. Women continue to be banned from working outside their homes. Over the last few decades many Afghan women have been educated and found jobs in the economy. Banning women from these jobs disrupted the efficient operation of the economy. IEA leaders refuse to recognize this problem, much less fix it.

Pakistan continues complaining to the Afghanistan government about tolerating TTP (Pakistani Taliban) forces operating against Pakistan from bases across the border inside Afghanistan. The TTP not only attacks Pakistani soldiers and border guards, but also Chinese technicians supervising the construction of the Desu Dam as a major source of hydroelectric power. A recent TTP attack used a suicide car bomb, driven by an Afghan to kill five Chinese engineers and their Pakistani driver. Soldiers and police arrested eleven people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the attack took place. This sort of violence has become more common since August 2021 when the elected IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) collapsed and was replaced by the Pakistani-backed IEA. It was the Pakistani military that backed the Taliban and the Afghan heroin cartels.

Over the last few years, Pakistan’s military has found a way to run Pakistan’s government without a coup and all the resulting criticism and foreign sanctions. The defeat of the IRA was accomplished via corruption, intimidation, disruption of the economy and a bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The original withdrawal plan was for a thousand or more U.S. and NATO troops to remain to advise and train IRA security forces and monitor the corruption. The IRA wanted to survive but to do that they had to keep receiving billions a year from foreign donors, mainly the United States. Refusal to cooperate meant termination of aid and nearly all the foreigners would leave. The Americans got a new government in early 2021 and that led to fatal changes to the withdrawal plan. Everyone was ordered out but were given three additional months to do it. That gave Pakistan and the Taliban an opportunity to increase their pressure on the IRA, which now rightly believed the Americans were going to abandon them.

The new IEA declared a great victory but found that few people, not even most Afghans, saw this as a win. Foreign aid ceased. Nearly $10 billion of IRA cash held in foreign banks, in an effort to reduce corruption, was frozen and no one would recognize the IEA as the successor to the IRA. By 2024 was clear that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan government was as corrupt as its predecessor. Foreign aid was stolen and sold in markets rather than delivered to Afghans in remote areas who were starving because of poor harvests and bandits operating freely on most roads in rural Afghanistan. Since 2021 few rural areas in Afghanistan were receiving enough food aid to feed a population that was increasingly unemployed because of IEA mismanagement of the economy.

IEA leaders attributed the problems to bandits or inept locals. Since the IEA took power, Afghanistan’s banks suffered a panic among their depositors, who rushed to withdraw their money before the new government imposed restrictions. The Afghan banks handled the distribution of foreign aid, which before 2021 accounted for 40 percent of the GDP.

Countries in the region expected the IEA to collapse in a few years and leave the country a narco-state without any effective central government. Drug production in Afghanistan depends on the Pakistan military for support. The drugs are winning as they usually do wherever they get established. There are not too many narco-states because they all follow the same script. Eventually locals get fed up with the local violence and the growing number of addicts. That leads to more violence and the drug gangs are crushed although usually not completely eliminated. Eventually can take a long time and such is the case with Afghanistan. Compare that to how it worked in Colombia after 2000, and Burma after World War II and Iran in the 1950s.

The only thing that nearly everyone in Afghanistan can agree on is that opium and heroin are bad. Nearly ten percent of the population is addicted to opiates and another ten percent profits from or even become very wealthy by managing the drug trade. Most Afghans consider drug gangs the biggest threat and these are largely run and staffed, like the IEA, by Pushtun tribesmen from four southern provinces. The Pakistani-backed Afghan Taliban want to create a heroin-producing Islamic terrorist and gangster sanctuary in Afghanistan. If you want to know how that works, look at Chechnya in the late 1990s and Somalia or Yemen in the early 21st century. No one has come up with any cheap, fast, or easy solution for that. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's core problem is that there is no longer a united Afghanistan, merely a collection of tribes more concerned with tribal issues than anything else. The IEA runs Kabul, the largest city in Afghanistan, but not much outside Kabul besides some major cities in other provinces.

Since 2021 new resistance groups have formed and made it increasingly difficult for IEA forces to operate outside major cities, especially the capital Kabul. Those are the NRF National Resistance Front), the AFF (Afghanistan Freedom Front) and the ALM (Afghanistan Liberation Movement).

The only organized opposition to IEA rule is a successor to the 1990s Northern Alliance. This new anti-Taliban group reassembled in 2022 as the NRF (National Resistance Front), and initially appeared to be a major threat to IEA rule. NRF leaders blame the United States and the former IRA government. Both misjudged and mishandled efforts to deal with the ISIL and TTP (Pakistani Taliban) presence inside Afghanistan. Now the resistance to the revived Taliban rule in Afghanistan is opposed by an updated version of the pre-September 11, 2001, Afghan resistance. This time the United States was not interested in trying to remove a pro-Islamic terrorist government in Afghanistan.

Some of the NRF leaders are sons of successful Northern Alliance commanders. Iran threatened to provide more support to the NRF than they gave the Northern Alliance. By late 2022 the NRF dominated Panjshir province (northeast of Kabul) and believed they could resist any IEA attack. That was optimistic because IEA forces suffered some losses initially but soon turned that around and inflicted heavy losses on NRF in terms of gunmen, territory, and local support. Now the NRF is based in northern neighbor Tajikistan and only conducts raids into Afghanistan. This was not a repeat of the 1990s when the Northern Alliance dominated the Panjshir Valley (a 90-minute drive from Kabul) right up to the defeat of the Taliban government after September 2001. Northern Front leaders became members of the IRA government and now their sons reassembled as the NRF, which had some initial success but no staying power. Not enough Panjshir Valley residents are willing to die opposing the ruthless IEA government. The remaining resistance fighters have moved north to Tajikistan.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close