“It was the New Zealanders who broke the back of the Taliban,” a senior police commander told McClatchy, referring to New Zealand special forces who were mentoring the Afghan commandos at the time. The police commander did not want to be named to protect his job.
A report this week by the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent research group, followed a U.S. military investigation into a Taliban attack in the southern province of Uruzgan last year that the analysts said revealed “the dismal, virtually negligible role of Afghan security forces. ... Yet the press release from ISAF Public Affairs, published the day after the attack, gave a glutinously adulatory account of their actions.”
The analysts’ report said that ISAF spokesmen had “continued to try to spin the story – claiming even recently that the counterattack had been ‘Afghan-led,’ when in fact, no Afghans were involved in it at all.”
Part of the reason behind such comments from ISAF appears to be a genuine desire to bolster the self-esteem of Afghan forces and to promote confidence among Afghans in the soldiers and police that will be tasked with protecting the country when coalition combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Despite ISAF’s optimistic assessments, many Afghans are concerned that their security forces will be unable to cope with the challenges of what seems a persistent – and an increasingly virulent – insurgency. Friday’s attack was the latest in a series of Taliban assaults that have left mainly civilians as victims. The insurgent group claimed in a statement Friday that foreigners used the hotel for parties and activities banned by Islam, but there appeared to be no foreigners present and Afghan authorities said that the hotel was used primarily by families seeking a weekend break from Kabul.
The gap between coalition claims and the experience of ordinary citizens was evident earlier this week when the outgoing senior ISAF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, told journalists at a news conference in Kabul that “the Taliban’s stated spring offensive has so far been a failure.”
Jacobson went on to argue that the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program – a multibillion-dollar effort to get insurgents to put down their weapons and provide them with livelihoods – was a success and that “a growing number of Taliban … have stopped fighting and are permanently returning to their communities.”
That remark was greeted with disbelief by Afghan journalists in the room – as was his claim that “the majority of Taliban want peace.” One Afghan reporter replied, “You say this, but we Afghans don’t feel it.”