The legacies of the Afghan Peace Jirga didn’t turn out to be peaceful. Just days after the Jirga Declaration, the Afghan government issued an abrupt decree to reopen and review the current Taliban prisoners cases of and its Minister of Interior and Chief of National Directorate of Security announced their resignations within the same day.
While both the officials explained the rationale for their resignation as dissatisfaction of the president on the lack of security arrangements during the Peace Jirga that allowed the militants to launch rocket attacks, and suicide bombing in close proximities of the Peace Jirga venue. But Afghan critics see the situation much more complex and different.
This is the first time in the past 9 years of the Afghan government to see such high profile officials resign over lack of effectiveness and responsiveness to the requirements of their jobs, especially when both men, are considered to be the most competent and qualified members of the cabinet. Even when the cabinet members were explicitly accused of corruption and misuse of their political influence and positions, none of them resigned.
Hanif Atmar, who has been the minister for Education, and twice the minister of Interior, with his NGO background, and a former military officer has been among the lead reformists in Afghanistan and his three times easy approvals in the parliament as well reflects his popularity among the Afghan parliament. Atmar has been seen as a potential rival to in the past years and a member of the cabinet said, the president needed the post of Minister of Interior at this point and in one shot, he killed two birds.
Similarly, Amrullah Saleh, the Chief of Intelligence has been one of the few Northern Alliance members within the government, who was CIA trained and his strong back up of the Northern Alliance leaders wouldn’t allow the President to sideline him in any other way. Saleh has been a critique of the current system and spoke about the lack of political will to trace the militants operations back to Pakistani soil in the Afghan parliament. His speeches that are recorded in the parliament sessions, reflect lack of trust of the president on the information and intelligence that NDS provided, because the president looks at Saleh as a Panjsheri,Northern Alliance member, not his government's Intelligence Chief.
While their resignation is seemingly premised on the failures of the security measures during the Peace Jirga, but such an explanation is difficult to believe, especially since this was not the first instance of their failures to ensure safety and security of such a big gathering. In 2007, during the celebrations of the victory of Mujahidin day, there was a similar bombing that killed MPs and Jihadi leaders just when President Karzai was giving his opening Speech. Therefore, the celebrations were cancelled.
Amrullah Saleh in a press conference on the day of his resignation in Kabul also said there are many other internal and external reasons for his resignation but he didn’t give any further details.
However, those close to him say that there are other reasons for his resignation.He apparently expressed dissent and concerns with President’s plan to release the or militants leaders and declared them extremely dangerous for the stability of Afghanistan.
It is also said that in the last meeting ,the president was unpleasantly dubious of the information of attacks during the Jirga's first day. President Karzai seems to think that the Jirga's first day attack was a conspiracy of one of the Western powers and not the Taliban. Critics also believe that sideling Amrullah Saleh, who has been a hard line interrogator of the Taliban and militants prisoners, would please the militants and Taliban further. Saleh is now replaced by another Intelligence Chief Ibrahim Spinzada, a Kandahari and believed to be among the supporters of the Taliban groups, he has been involved in negotiations of the Taliban militants from Guantanamo jail as well.
A similar concern could be drawn from Atmar’s press conference from his tone and address to the enemies of Afghanistan. He said: “My position on enemies is solid and clear. Your (enemies) predatory attacks wont affect our determinations and you wont succeed because you are not legitimate”. These statements undermine and question the impunity and legitimacy that were granted to the militants and Taliban by withdrawing their names from blacklists and releasing their prisoners, during the Peace Jirga. In fact, the Jirga covered up the criminal and terrorist aspects of these militants insurgency that was evident in Atmar’s press conference but the Jirga called them merely political “angry brothers”.
The sudden decision of the Afghan government to review the cases of the Taliban prisoners and release them alarms on the fragile nature of the judiciary system that is not technically well equipped to undertake such a crucial inquiry. If notorious militants are released, they will create more serious threats to Afghanistan and international community. After all Mullah Zakir Qayyum is a recent example of such a release who is now the Chief Operating Officer of insurgency in Afghanistan. It is also said that the inquiry Commission for the release of Prisoners did not include NDS, which is a very crucial institution to determine the status of the prisoners captured as militants.
It seems that the Afghan government leadership has decided to come to terms with its armed militants at any cost. However, there is a growing fear and contention in Kabul, that such decisions to turn the government into a Taliban-friendly organization, will further antagonize the rest of the society against the government and increases the chances of another civil unrest among various ethnicities in the country. It is worth mentioning that it was only to topple down the Taliban government that the joined hands with theOperation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, particularly after the assassination of theNorthern Alliance leader, Ahmad Shah Masood. The challenge for the Afghan government in the coming months and year is in reconciling these two opposing forces under its National Peace and Re-integration Program Plan without further diss-agregation of non-Taliban groups, that might ignite rifts and potential violence.
Paradoxically, while the international community is fighting a lethal war in Afghanistan and embarking on a furious operation in Kandahar, its partner, the Afghan government muddling along an internal political and governance crisis. Half of the cabinet’s fate is unknown for almost 7 months now and the parliament term is over in a month or so. In such a crisis, the president’s priorities seem to be pleasing the “angry brothers” whose own minister calls them as “enemies” but the larger brunt remains on the effectiveness of the ongoing counter-insurgency.