Afghanistan Security Forces Face Big, Big Test Next Month

In a statement from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the insurgent group threatened yesterday to use violence against anyone involved in a loya jirga that will be convened in Kabul next month to discuss a new strategic agreement with the United States.

In addition to the usual rhetoric denouncing the assembly, the Taliban issued a broad threat against anyone — organizers, attendees, guards — involved in the jirga.

Islamic Emirate wants to warn every person who wants to participate in this so-called Loe Jirga [sic] that such traitors will be pursued by Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate in every corner of the country and will face severe repercussions… Islamic Emirate also calls on its brave and courageous Mujahideen to target every security guard, person with intention, participant and every caller of this convention in all corners of the country….

About 2,030 delegates — 25% of whom will be women — are expected to converge in the capital on November 16 for the loya jirga. Among the delegates are tribal elders, members of parliament, cabinet ministers and representatives of Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan, the United States, Canada and a number of European countries. The convention will last four days.

A 2010 jirga, attended by 1,600 people, had paved the way for the peaceable reintegration of the Taliban. Ironically, the insurgent group had issued similar threats of violence and launched attacks on the peace jirga. While nobody was hurt, one rocket landed just 70 yards from the jirga as President Karzai was giving his inaugural remarks.

“It seems that some people are trying to disrupt the Jirga by firing rockets,” Karzai told the attendees.

“I have become used to this,” he added, alluding to assassination attempts and rocket attacks on his presidential palace. Outside, security personnel battled insurgent fighters before they detonated their suicide vests.

One year later  the peace process has all but failed and the current jirga is facing the same threats. But since last year’s jirga, the Taliban have had unprecedented success in infiltrating the ranks of the security forces and assassinating an array of high-level government and security officials, including the head of the High Peace Council.

Hundreds of Afghan forces were providing security for the 2010 jirga; this year they have also taken over security responsibility for all of Kabul province, minus one district. In some ways, the jirga will be a test of their capabilities.