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The NATO occupation in a dilemma

Those who walk through Kabul also notice in these days the presence of conspicuous military vehicles, which often form a column and meander aggressively through the congested traffic of the capital. Heavily armed soldiers, in thoughts already at their next deployment, are recognizable. The inscription " NDS " can be read on the heavy off-road vehicles. The NDS (“National Directorate of Security”) is not just anyone, but the Afghan domestic intelligence service, which was set up by the CIA after 2001. This is the extended arm of the CIA in Afghanistan. Over the past two decades, the US secret service has built a massive internal security and surveillance apparatus. There are several CIA centers in the country, such as in Kabul, at the airport in eastern Jalalabad or in the city of Khost in the southeast of the country. Surveillance balloons dominate the landscape and create a dystopian mood that has long since become everyday life. The NDS leads numerous paramilitary shadow units that regularly debauch and conduct operations nationwide. In addition, there are other militias such as the “Khost Protection Force” (KPF), which is present in the southeast of the country and operates independently of the NDS. For years, many observers of the Afghanistan War have wondered about the hierarchy within these structures. Much happens in the dark. Many high Afghan officials, including the president himself, are probably not privy to many machinations. However, the fact that complete control is in Langley should be undisputed. Without the approval and support of the CIA, the NDS would be virtually immobilized. Even with the election of the current NDS chief, Ahmad Zia Saraj, the US secret service had to agree before others had anything to say.

However, the last few years and especially the last few days have made it clear that these structures have not made Afghanistan safer, but rather more insecure and have fueled radicalism and extremism. The most recent example is an operation that took place on the night of March 10 in Khogyani district in Nangarhar Province. NDS-units stormed a school, killing ten civilians, consisting of eight students, a doctor and a teacher. The massacre was not only ignored by the government, but also by many media in Kabul. “The massacre has created many new Taliban members,” commented one observer. He alluded to the fact that militant groups are using such attacks on the civilian population to recruit new personnel. “These militias are extremely brutal and have been terrorizing people for years. Many have no other choice and have to join the Taliban, " says a resident from the region in conversation with the reflection pages. He wants to remain anonymous. All this has been happening for years in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But instead of showing insight and changing this, (Western) violence is often suppressed and ignored by those responsible. If this were not the case, one would probably have read more about the latest CIA massacre in German-speaking latitudes.

The recent events in Khost province, where the aforementioned KPF is present, also make it clear that this is not an isolated case. A tribal meeting was recently held there. Topic: The current attacks of the militia on the civilian population. “They say they are taking action against the Taliban. But they are attacking our mosques and villages. They kill our wives as well as our elders. We will not tolerate this anymore,” said a tribal leader there. In the last weeks and months there have been several brutal raids by the KPF. Civilians regularly fall victim to the militia. On the part of the population, the same thing has been heard in this context for years: one cannot defend oneself because the Americans, i.e. the CIA, would stand behind the militia. This circumstance has long been ignored. Some observers even said that the KPF had made the province more peaceful. Now it becomes clear how fatal such analyses have been. An increased escalation is becoming more and more apparent. The supposed “anti-terror militia” spreads terror itself – and the consequence of this will be a massive, anti-Western radicalization on the ground.

All of these developments are, of course, to be considered in the context of a possible US withdrawal. This is still in the room and, as the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already pointed out, is to take place in May. However, the following things are to be considered:

  1. There is still talk here of a withdrawal of the US military. The CIA is an independent actor, whose clandestine machinations are hardly discussed. It is absolutely unlikely that the CIA will withdraw from Afghanistan. In addition, the numerous militias of the intelligence service are Afghans – and they cannot withdraw at all.

  2. Until recently, it was said that about 2,500 US soldiers were staying in Afghanistan. However, it has now become clear that this number is not correct. In fact, at least 1,000 more soldiers are stationed on the ground. As long as the exact number is not made completely transparent, discussions about the withdrawal plans are practically irrelevant.

  3. Are the US really pulling out? This question is also still in the room. In a letter to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, Blinken made it clear that this withdrawal would probably only take place if the Afghan government fulfilled its responsibilities and took the peace talks with the Taliban seriously. However, this (and a related withdrawal of US troops) is not at all in the interest of the Kabul elites, who benefit from the occupation. In addition, the Taliban are also massively responsible and practically forced to conclude an agreement with Kabul instead of continuing to wage war against the Afghan security forces and civilians. At the moment, one has the impression that the Taliban are merely waiting for the withdrawal to take over the remaining parts of the country (especially the cities). In short, the so-called peace process will probably be sabotaged by at least one side or both. This would guarantee a continuation of the US presence and the “longest war” of the Americans would become one of the very longest wars ever.