US-led coalition ‘clueless’ of ground situation in Afghanistan

Afghan MSF surgeons work in an undamaged part of the MSF hospital in Kunduz after the operating theatres were destroyed in an air strike © MSF
Afghanistan needs more cooperation from regional powers – Iran, Afghanistan, India, China –to come up with an alternative template to stabilize Afghanistan, because the American one has not particularly helped, Dr. Sreeram Chaulia, the Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, told RT.

A hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz has been hit and partially destroyed in an overnight “aerial attack” that reportedly killed nine Medecins Sans Frontieres staff. NATO has admitted a US airstrike may have caused accidental “collateral damage.”

RT:  What does this latest tragic incident in Afghanistan tell us about the US-led coalition’s operations in this Central Asia country?

Dr. Sreeram Chaulia: It shows poor planning and poor intelligence. Obviously, it was not intentional, but the fact that it’s happened in the only running hospital in Kunduz at a time of critical emergency when the Taliban has run over it. Overall, I think it also reflects that the Americans are becoming clueless about what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan. General [John] Campbell, who the Western media boasts is the de facto defense minister of Afghanistan, has come out in the past saying there is no threat to open centers and Kunduz is pretty secure. And so now we see the reality: it’s been overtaken… a region that is far away from the Taliban heartland. So it’s a huge setback… It’s symptomatic of the overall failure of the US mission [in Afghanistan] for the last 15 years.

RT:  Has the Taliban been showing a greater determination to push the US-led coalition out of Afghanistan?

SC: Yes, the Taliban has been saying, after occupying Kunduz, that ‘we are going to weed out all those who are collaborators of the infidels,’ by which they mean the Americans, and the ‘puppet government’ in Kabul. But I think we must make a distinction between the two: the government in Kabul is a legitimate one and elected one; it is the responsibility of the entire region to support it. But what the Americans are doing, unfortunately, is making it harder for the Afghan state to survive and be stable, and this is where the role of the external actors in this war continues, even though the Americans have reduced their troop presence to about 10,000 or so. The fact is they’ve been highly ineffective and the crisis in Kunduz is showing that… they believe they are saviors. They have this condescension towards the Afghans.

Fires burn in part of the MSF hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz after it was hit by an air strike on October 3, 2015 © MSF

RT:  What are the short- and long-term prospects for US forces remaining in Afghanistan? Do you think there should be other regional powers involved in the security of the country as well?

SC: Well, Afghan President [Mohammad Ashraf] Ghani has said he would like [the Americans] to remain longer. And I think President Obama has also said that it is based on the situation on the ground. But now they are being made to eat humble pie because even with 10,000 [troops] they are unable to stop this, so how many more will they need to bring in to stem the rot? I think the real solution lies in building the capacity of the Afghan state, both in the civilian and military sector. Unfortunately, the Americans who have been in charge of this capacity building for the past 14-15 years have not delivered. So I think we need to see more regional powers – Iran, Afghanistan, India, China – all of these need to pitch in and come up with an alternative template to stabilize Afghanistan because the American one has not particularly helped. But nonetheless, we do need the Americans there and that’s what the Afghans are saying right now. The point is, at the end of this year the Taliban will be saying they have a bigger chance because Obama is going to be withdrawing more. So when you add it up, it’s a fiasco, and it’s not looking pretty at all.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.