The Ministry of interior Affairs (MoIA) Tuesday defended the right of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to use any force necessary to subdue armed insurgents behind Afghan deaths. The statement joins a growing push from security officials to galvanize their forces and ramp-up operations around the country since an attack in Kunar.
“Insurgents, Taliban and whoever kill Afghans, are enemy of the people, and we should treat them without compassion,” Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. “The police forces fight against them legally, just as the army soldiers do.”
Sediqqi’s comments come just after Army Chief of Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi on Monday told a class of ANA Academy graduates to fight against the Taliban with “full force and no mercy”.
Ten days ago, an attack on a check-post manned by ANA troops in Kunar Province left 21 soldiers dead and four missing. The incident has become a rallying point for the Afghan security forces, sparking a number of coordinated counterinsurgent operations in eastern Afghanistan and a steady stream of patriotic and pro-military rhetoric from officials.
The incident also marked the newest flashpoint in ongoing tensions between President Hamid Karzai and his critics.
In recent months, Karzai has taken an increasingly conciliatory approach toward the Taliban, freeing militants from Bagram Prison, referring to Taliban leaders as “brothers” and “martyrs” and attempting to conduct hidden peace negotiations with them just as relations with the U.S. take a turn for the worst.
Establishing a reconciliation deal with the militant group, rather than signing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Washington that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan post-2014, appears to be the priority in his last months in office.
Some in Parliament, in the military and among the Presidential candidates running in April’s election have criticized the President for not expressing more public support for the families of the Kunar attack victims and for failing to move ahead with the security deal that many see as crucial to Afghanistan’s future stability.
MP Baktash Siawash has staged a protest outside of Parliament for over a week demanding that Karzai do more to support the families of soldiers killed in action. Siawash suggested the President treats the Taliban with more respect than he does the country’s security forces.
The President’s office has maintained that Karzai has in fact met with the families of fallen soldiers and refers to them as “martyrs” with consistence.
Yet the gulf between Karzai and the Afghan political and military elite likely to find themselves at the helm of the country’s leadership after April seems to be widening, as the Presidential Palace tries to balance attempts at Taliban reconciliation with support for security forces that still face daily insurgent violence.
The MoIA and Ministry of Defense (MoD) have said that operations throughout the country in the past couple weeks have resulted in the deaths and captures of dozens of insurgents, as well as the confiscation of large caches of weapons and explosives. Security forces are said to be in overdrive in the lead up to the April 5 election day, looking to have as many polling centers as possible secure and ready for operation.
But regardless of progress made on the elections front, the Kunar attack seems to have left a bad taste in many security officials’ mouths, inspiring a firmly combative attitude at odds with the conciliatory one being promoted by the Presidential Palace. With the four ANA soldiers abducted in Kunar still missing, it could be a while before military leaders change their tune.