Former chief of Afghan special services on air at Azeri.Today
The information-analytical site Azeri.Today continues the column "Interviews with special services". The column publishes interviews with directors, ex-directors, former high-ranking officers of the special services of the world on threats to national security of countries, international terrorism, confrontation between special services and states.
Today's guest of Azeri.Today is Rakhmatulla Nabil, former head of the National Security Agency of Afghanistan (2012-2012 and 2013-2015), former deputy national security adviser to the President of Afghanistan, founder of the Presidential Security Service.
- Mr. Rahmatullah Nabil, from 2010 to 2012, you headed the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS). How did the situation develop in the country during this period.
What can you say about the current situation in Afghanistan?
- Actually, I was chief of NDS for Afghanistan twice, between 2010-2012 and also 2013-2015. In order to have an enhanced understanding of the complex situation in Afghanistan, I will divide the circumstances in Afghanistan between 2001 till now into four phases. a): Phase of Success, b): Phase of Carelessness, c): Phase of Fear & Hope, and d): Phase of Despair.
a): Phase of Success (2001 - 2004/2005): After the defeat of Soviet Union and collapse of Dr. Naibullah's Regime and Internal conflict, Afghanistan was abandoned by the world and became home for several national, regional and international Terrorist networks. After the tragic attack of 9/11, the world once again paid attention to Afghanistan and through Bonn Process, though not a perfect mechanism, a post-Taliban government was formed that was endorsed widely by the international community. During this period of time Afghanistan become home for almost all Afghans once again. Afghanistan emerged from diplomatic isolation and resumed its relationswith the world, Afghanistan ratified a new constitution, and Presidential and Parliamentary elections were conducted. Regional and International consensus and cooperation in Afghanistan increased significantly. Whereas Bin Laden wanted to launch attacks from Afghanistan that would trigger a clash of civilizations, instead in late 2001 Afghanistan became ground zero for international cooperation. Troops from many nations were posted in Afghanistan as were many international agencies and organization
b): Phase of Carelessness, (2004/2005 - 2009/2010): The US and the “Coalition of the Willing” were preoccupied with the conflict in Iraq which resulted and diverted attention and resources away from Afghanistan. Moreover, many NATO countries disagreed with the US on the conflict in Iraq thus the more the US tried to make the Iraq conflict as part of the “global war on terrorism” the more uncomfortable the Europeans became in cooperating robustly with US led war policies. Thus,several key NATO allies placed caveats on their participation in Afghanistan which limited their combat roles. Simultaneously, investments in Afghan institutions and good governance were reduced. Instead of investments on building institutions, more attention was paid to investment in personalities, many of whomwere part of crises in the past, and had failed Afghanistan previously. The emergence of this uncertain situation providedonce again the opportunity for Pakistan to regroup the Talibanand other Terrorist networks based in Pakistan and provide them with support and save havens. The resumption of Pakistan’s undeclared war via its proxies in Afghanistan created a very tense security and unstable situation. Unfortunately, many in the international community ignored the nefarious role Pakistan played in increasing its support for extremism in the region in order to undermine the Afghan state and the mission of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. Pakistan would often seek to go around the newly established Afghan government and formal institutions by working with and promoting non-state actors, and their capacity to inflict harm on Afghanistan.
c): Phase of Fear & Hope, (2010 - 2014): When President Obama took office; he redirected US attention once again to Afghanistan. He surged US troops to over 100,000 and investments in Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) became a top priority. UBL was killed in Pakistan, the number of Al Qaeda fighters in South Asia were reduced significantly, and Taliban were pushed from most of Afghan territory. Though these gains were offset by the calendar based policy of US whereby President Obama announced the withdrawal of US troops. This provided the Taliban and Pakistan with incentive to simply wait out the Americans for a few years then intensify their attacks. Additionally, the transition of security control from US/NATO to ANDSF was rushed and based on an unrealistic timeline. The ANDSF lacked the required enablers, such as heavy weapons, an air force, and transport means to be able to fully confront an insurgency growing in intensity. It was not an issue of courage as many members of the Afghan security fought bravely and sacrificed their lives, it was merely an issue of not having the proper equipment. A lack of proper analysis of the situation on the ground, ignoring the terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, the supportPakistan provided to Taliban, Haqqani Network (HQN), and other terrorist groups, also compounded the challenges the transition to Afghan forcesfaced. Lastly the trust deficit between US and Afghan leaders that emerged in the aftermath of the 2009 Afghan elections alsocreated a situation of fear and hope in Afghanistan.
d): Phase of Despair (2014 till now): During 2014, Afghanistan had a long and tense dispute over election results, which culminated in the formation of National Unity Government in Afghanistan, brokered by Secretary Kerry and the US. While Afghan security forces were busy with preparing for and providing security for two rounds of elections throughout the country, Pakistan conducted Zarb-e-Azb Operation in North Waziristan and pushed most of terrorist networks includingIMU, ETIM, Jund-Ullah, Jund-ul- Khalifa, and other terrorist groups from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Pakistan also increasedits support to the Afghan Taliban to intensify their operations in Afghanistan. Simultaneously Pakistan began to provide supported for the Orakzay branch of Tahrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and instructed them to pledge allegiance to ISIS (DAESH) and declares themselves as ISIS-K.
Compounding the situation is the fact that from inception the Unity Government has been mired in disputes and political infighting, as a result they have paid less attention to the security and stability of Afghanistan, and more attention to consolidating power or positions based on very narrow ethnic and political interests. It is important to note that these divisive policies emanating from the Unity Government in a country such as Afghanistan with a diverse ethnic, geographic, linguistic and sectarian make up have serious long-term risks for harmony and national unity. It also provides fertile grounds for unhelpful elements in the region to prop their proxies once again based on a narrow ethnic agenda and default back to their unhelpful policies of the 1990’s. Afghans are haunted by those memories from the 1990’s where political instability and infighting based on narrow agendas led to a brutal internal conflict and regional proxy war which gave rise to the events that caused 9/11. Currently the lack of clarity, lack of commitments, and lack of vision, is a cause for much concern and anxiety amongst Afghan citizens.
- How strong is the position of the Taliban in Afghan society?
- Although Taliban are controlling more territories in rural areas compared to previous years, Taliban has been also suffered many defeats and casualties at the hand of AfghanDefense Security Forces (ANDSF). Moreover, the Taliban are facing some weaknesses due to killing of some of their leaders in Pakistan. Some internal fractures also have emerged, they are making some gains not because they are popular or powerful but because the Afghan government is weak and its leadership preoccupied with personal agendas and political divisions. Hopefully these divisions from the Unity Government will not spill over into the ANDSF as that will have very serious consequences for the fighting capability of the Afghan forces.
DEASH and Taliban create a very strained situation on the Afghan-Turkmen border. What are the objectives pursued by religious extremists in Central Asia, in particular in Turkmenistan?
I think creation of a tense situation on the Afghan-Turkmen border and along the rest of Afghanistan’s northern borders are more tactical. The Taliban and their allies seek to persuade the relevant countries of the region to provide support to Taliban and consider them as a force that will counter DAESH, which is a false scenario the Taliban and Daesh groups in South-Asia have the same entity protecting them, it is the Pakistani military. This scenario also reduces the pressure on Pakistan from the international community.
- Can the DEASH and the Taliban enter the territory of the Central Asian countries?
- I don’t think so. As I indicated above using name of DAESH and Taliban activities on the border of Central Asian countries are more tactical. Currently so called DAESH are facing at least five challenges. 1- Afghan Security Forces are countering them very courageously, 2-Religios differences exist, DAESH are followers of Salafism, while Afghans are mostly followers of Hanafi. 3- some Taliban usually do not want competition from other groups 4- Afghan traditions frown upon the tactics that DEASH uses 5- Collation forces are also present in Afghanistan. BUT if the international community doesn’t pay attention to the current situation in Afghanistan, it is possible that further deterioration of fragile security and political situation may prepare the ground for Taliban and their supporters to takeover more territories. In this scenario, morespace will be created for these groups to flourish and establish training camps and have access to resources from the narcotics trade. This could include regional and international terror groups and extremist militants like IMU, ETIM and DAESH, a situation that will be far worse than the situation gave rise to the events of 9/11.
- How can they be stopped?
- We can win, if we mean Afghanistan and the International Community together, those who are interested in security and stability of Afghanistan which will have direct impact on the security of the region, though we must focus on the following short, medium and long-term goals.
Tackling the save-haven of terrorists and their sources of financing in Pakistan, help Afghanistan in political stability, take the war on terror from defensive to offensive, providing support/enabler to Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), promotion of regional and international consensus instead of distrust and promotion of proxies. And finally help Afghanistan to use its available opportunities towards economical self-sustainability.
- Does DEASH plan to destabilize the Caucasus (Azerbaijan)?
- I think I replied to a part of this question above. If DAESH is defeated in Syria and Iraq, they may try to find new geographical opportunity and locations. Afghanistan’s complex terrain, the presence of narcotics trade and resources it generates, the level of support emanating from the Pakistani military and informal groups for extremism and extremist groups, the deteriorating security situations in Afghanistan, cangive rise to emergence for a very complex security situation in the region that can also effect other including Azerbaijan.
- What do you know about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? How do you see the solution to this problem?
- Yes, I know about the long-stand dispute concerning the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I think both countries with the help of key regional and international interlocutors should try to search for constructive ways, based on mutual interest in order to achieve a peaceful, negotiated settlement. Both sides should recognize the importance of bilateral talks between the two parties directly involved in the conflict, and none of the two countries should get involved in proxy conflicts. Meanwhile the regional countries, US and Russia should provide assurances that the agreed peace settlement would be durable.
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