Death of Afghan Police Chief Pushes Afghanistan Into Further Crisis

The death of the high-ranking and powerful police chief and intelligence head of Kandahar Province, Abdul Raziq, has thrown the South Asian nation yet further into chaos and uncertainty. The incident occurred on October 18, as the Afghan police chief was meeting with the U.S. Forces and NATO Resolute Support Mission commander General Scott Miller, the provincial governor Zalmay Wesa, and provincial spy chief Abdul Mohmin. Mohmin and an Afghan journalist were killed in the shooting, with the governor among the injured. General Miller escaped unharmed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. In a nation racked by violence and political instability, and just days from parliamentary elections, this attack only further exemplifies how peace in the country and region is far from materializing.

In response to this attack, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Spokesman Col. Dave Butler tweeted a statement by General Miller, saying, “‘Today I lost a great friend Lt. Gen. Raziq. We had served together for many years. Afghanistan lost a patriot, my condolences to the people of Afghanistan. The good he did for Afghanistan and the Afghan people cannot be undone.’ ”  Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted, “We strongly condemn this terrorist attack & stand united in our unshaken resolve to fight terrorism. The struggle continues.”

Echoing that statement, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Col. Kone Faulkner said, “This attack will not change [the] U.S. resolve in our South Asia strategy. If anything, it makes us more resolute.” NPR’s Jennifer Glasse writes that, “He [Raziq] was seen as crucial to the security of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban where the group continued to have a presence,” but also that, “Raziq was also criticized for alleged torture and running illegal prisons.” The Afghan police chief was criticized by human rights groups for forcible disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

This attack comes on the heels of a sustained campaign by the Taliban over the past year targeting parliamentary candidates, in which 10 have been killed so far. Just recently, on October 17, Abdul Jabar Qahraman, a candidate for the southern province of Helmand, was killed in a bomb attack targeting the candidate’s office headquarters. For a nation that is on the verge of becoming, or is already a failed state, the recent political violence has left a society fearful for the future.

In order to support the development of civil society in Afghanistan, three actors must play their part: Afghan authorities, international peacekeeping forces, and international humanitarian NGOs. All three actors are critical factors in collaborating in promoting an Afghanistan that is on the road to the rule of law, stability, and prosperity. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are an estimated 2.5 million registered Afghan refugees seeking safe refuge across the world. It is crucial that these refugees are able to return to a homeland that is safe and conducive to at least a decent and dignified quality of life. Their return to Afghanistan could very well be a catalyst for the rebuilding of the country and the restoration of civil society.

The current political and social malaise that afflicts Afghanistan has its roots in its long history, but of prime importance is the ongoing effects of the American invasion of the country in 2001. Responding to the September 11 attacks, the United States sought to extradite the attacks’ mastermind, Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, from the country. It soon invaded the country and would be later joined by a multinational coalition, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In this theatre of the War on Terrorism, the U.S.-led coalition quickly dislodged the Taliban from power, and by November 2001 had taken control of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban was scattered and the coalition shifted its focus to fighting the remaining pockets of Taliban resistance and rebuilding the country. The United States then proceeded on laying the groundwork for a democratic transition for the country, with elections in 2004—the first elections in the country since 1969.

However, bin Laden remained at large and the Taliban regrouped, carrying out a massive insurgency campaign, including raids, ambushes, and suicide attacks. Furthermore, hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of civilians would be killed—some of them by coalition firepower. Thousands of American and coalition forces would participate in the conflict, with an estimated 3,500 killed and 22,700 wounded. Neighboring Pakistan would be brought into the conflict, as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda sought refuge in the terrorist-friendly southern neighbour. It would also be the country in which under the Obama administration, the United States carried out Operation Neptune Spear, leading to the death of bin Laden in 2011.

For a brief but comprehensive timeline of the War in Afghanistan, please go this link.

Though both Presidents Obama and Trump campaigned on reducing, or even pulling, troops out of Afghanistan, a significant force remains. The War in Afghanistan—in its 18th year, and the longest war in American history—has led to the deaths of tens of thousands and a material cost to the United States of an estimated $1.07 trillion USD, according to The Balance. Civil society remains fractured, as expressed in the aforementioned events. Should the violence continue and Afghans be unable to freely vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections, it is quite likely that they will leave the country and join the worldwide migration flows that have become such a contentious political, social, and moral issue in global politics. Furthermore, Afghanistan would lose even more of its valuable human capital that is so essential in rebuilding the country. Another equally disastrous result would be the Afghan people becoming so despondent that they refuse to participate in civil society building or political affairs. For a country so fragile, it must be the helping hand of the international community that restores the country along a positive trajectory.