Heads of Afghanistan’s security institutions on Wednesday rejected claims that the battles in Uruzgan and Ghazni provinces, and others, were an “ethnic war”, but said that regional countries and terrorists are trying to manipulate these battles in order for them to look like this.
Interior minister Wais Ahmad Barmak said regional intelligence agencies and insurgent groups are using everything at their disposal to cripple government forces.
Meanwhile defense minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said that battles are ongoing in at least ten provinces in the country and that the level of threats are beyond the capabilities of government.
On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) summoned the heads of the security institutons for the second time in a week to brief lawmakers on the situation in the country, particularly on Ghazni and Uruzgan provinces.
Currently battles are underway in Ghazni, Uruzgan, Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz, Badghis, Baghlan and some other areas, said Bahrami.
“To be honest, the level of threats is very high; the level of conspiracies against this country is also very high and the current facilities available to security and defense institutions is not enough to repel these threats,” said Bahrami.
Barmak also said that Afghanistan’s enemies are plotting “to bring us to our knees”.
“The enemies and supporters of enemies of the people of Afghanistan including the backers of terrorists have made their final plots to break our back,” said Barmak.
MPs blame poor war leadership
“When 200 to 300 young men are martyred in a single day and their children come out on the streets to beg and you (security chiefs) are even too weak to bring back their dead bodies, do you think you should stay on (in your positions)?” asked one MP Abdul Rahim.
“Government’s main plan and target is to defend district centers, if it is like that and government does not think that the defense of the people is its responsibility, then it should not sacrifice the people,” MP Abdul Qayoum Sajjadi said.
But security chiefs said they are doing everything to tackle the threats.
“So if you (MPs) revoke your votes of confidence, we respond positively and will accept that,” said Bahrami in response to the MPs’ criticism.
“We must work sincerely in this country; the minister of defense and myself remain busy on the telephone until 2am and 3am (daily); we call here and there to this and that commander and get updates on the situations, and the commanders shout for help,” said Barmak.
But one MP, Ayoubi, accused the ministers of not doing much except sign documents.
“These honorable ministers just give signatures from their offices; what is this, we swear upon God we do not understand what is going on, these people (security chifs) do not fear God,” added Ayoubi.
“Let’s not engage in these issues, disagreements between MPs inside the house is not good,” spearker of Wolesi Jirga Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said.
Claims of ethnic war rejected
The two security chiefs however emphatically rejected claims that the conflict had taken on an ethnic dimension and said regional countries and terrorist groups were trying to exploit the current crisis.
This comes after conflicting reports have emerged over the past few days on the severity and source of the crisis in Ghazni and Uruzgan.
Heavy clashes have in the past week spilled over from Uruzgan to Malistan and Jaghori – which has caused thousands of people to flee their homes.
Ghazni officials said however that extra troops have been sent to the two embattled districts from the Ghazni provincial capital to tackle the Taliban offensive.
Speaking to TOLOnews, Malistan district governor said that a unit of Special Forces has also arrived in the area but that widespread clashes are ongoing around the center of Malistan district.
“Over the past two weeks, the opponents are seen focusing their attention on Malistan and Jaghori. In the rest of the areas, threats remain high despite there being no presence of the enemies,” said Arif Noori, spokesman for the Ghazni governor.
“We want more troops to be sent to the area; over the past four days, the enemy has deployed inside homes, and local people have fled this area,” said Zamin Ali Hedayat, Malistan district governor.
“On the war front, no steps have been taken by government regarding Jaghori district. Unfortunately in Malistan the Taliban has tightened its siege on the area,” MP Shagul Rezayee said.
“We are facing problems in Malistan, Jaghori, Qarabagh and Andar districts including the highway connecting Maidan Wardak to Zabul,” said Bahrami adding that more military equipment was needed in Malistan to push back the Taliban.
The defense minister also confirmed the high level of threats in Ghazni.
Reports indicate that both the Taliban and Afghan forces have suffered a major casualty toll during several days of violence.
UN Paints Grim Picture Of Ghazni Situation
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday that the situation in Jaghori and Malistan in Ghazni province is “chaotic” and that thousands of families are fleeing the area due to ongoing clashes.
In a news brief on the situation in the two provinces, OCHA said that heavy fighting broke out between the Taliban, supported by some local Pashtun communities, against pro-government Hazara militias in Khas Uruzgan district in Uruzgan province in early November.
OCHA said the tension was initially centered on the villages of Hussaini, Karez and Kondala, but that then the fighting spread to the districts of Jaghori and Malistan in neighboring Ghazni province.
Clashes have escalated since Saturday, November 10, after reinforcement troops and air support were sent in.
OCHA reports that the affected districts are chaotic and that families have been moving repeatedly in search of safety. The organization reports that displaced people are fleeing to Bamiyan and Maidan Wardak provinces and to Kabul.
According to their report, civilian casualty numbers cannot yet be determined accurately but local sources have told them at least 15 civilians were killed in Malistan alone on Sunday, November 11.
Task Team Established To Probe Uruzgan Situation
On November 4, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said a team had been appointed to visit and review the Uruzgan problem – a week after clashes broke out in Khas Uruzgan.
Since then however, conflicting reports have continued to emerge about who is involved in the fighting.
At the time local media published documents in which the Presidential Palace stated the clashes were being carried out between ethnic groups.
But at the same time, the interior ministry said Uruzgan clashes were Taliban related and had been brought under control.
The ministry’s deputy spokesman, Nusrat Rahimi, was quoted at the time as saying: “Police forces carried out operations in Malistan district (in Ghazni) and killed eight Taliban. The war in Khas Uruzgan district has been stopped.”
But then already MPs from Uruzgan said the clashes were not ethnic related.
“Taliban somehow have control over Khas Uruzgan and some other districts and for a few years they have been trying to create chaos in those areas,” Ali Alizada, an MP said.
A Meshrano Jirga (Upper House of Parliament) member Amanullah Azimi meanwhile warned at the time of a possible ethnic-related problem arising.
“I am afraid that a problem may be on the rise there between the Hazara and Pashtuns,” Azimi said.
Prior to this Second Vice President Sarwar Danish had criticized security departments for not doing anything about the clashes in Khas Uruzgan district.
In Bamiyan, organizations have already started to provide non-food items, including warm clothing, to displaced families.
The security chiefs are now due to appear in an in-camera session before the lawmakers on Sunday.