28 March 2013
Below RFE/RL quotes me on the changing security landscape of rural Afghanistan as both NATO and Afghan forces realign themselves in the coming years. Link available here.
Afghans Failing Security Test in Badakhshan
By Frud Bezhan and Mustafa Sarwar
For years, Badakhshan Province enjoyed life away from the action, an island of stability as war engulfed the rest of Afghanistan. But as the broader conflict winds down, the northeastern province is offering a bleak view of the future.
That’s because NATO last year handed over security duties in Badakhshan exclusively to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and National Police (ANP), but the transition has coincided with a spike in violence and increased militant activity.
It boasts the types of mountainous valleys and rugged terrain used as safe haven by militants throughout the country. It shares borders with three neighboring states — China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. And it is an important transit route for the booming opium trade.The region is an ideal testing ground of Afghanistan’s ability to secure remote areas on its own.
Moreover, its isolation saved it from becoming a main theater of the Afghan conflict, allowing fresh troops to gain much-needed experience before Afghanistan takes over security duties across the country at the end of 2014.
But David Young, a conflict-resolution expert and adjunct fellow at the American Security Project, says the security landscape has changed as coalition and Afghan forces have focused on securing urban areas, leaving large swaths of rural Afghanistan — such as Badakhshan – vulnerable.
“NATO forces across the country are focusing their efforts and dissipating resources on the places where they can have the most impact,” Young says. “Badakhshan is not one of those places. I fear that any terrain not classified as even moderately urban will take a lower priority and open the door to Taliban infiltration.”