Afghan forces patrol Chardara District after retaking it from the Taliban in May this year. (photo: Zafar Shah Rouyee)
The fall of Kunduz City to the Taliban on Monday, September 28, and the subsequent three-day Afghan army operation to retake it sent shockwaves through the Afghan public and media.
President Ashraf Ghani attempted to assure Afghans that Kunduz was “under control,” but the media merely took this as an affront. The country's leading daily, Hasht-e-Subh, wrote that over several days and nights the Taliban burnt down governmental facilities, looted stores and took military equipment left behind by Afghan forces that fled the city. The editor asked who would be held to account for all these crimes and said President Ashraf Ghani should “apologise to the people of Afghanistan in general and the people of Kunduz, in particular.”
Salem Azad, in another piece in Hasht-e Subh, argued that the fall of Afghanistan's 5th largest city to insurgents demonstrated the incoherence and mismanagement within the forces. “The fall of Kunduz city showed that the Afghan government’s military and defensive strategy against the Taliban and dependency on militias and local police for local security failed miserably and if the government does not officially declare a large-scale war against the Taliban, the security situation will further deteriorate. Insecurity will spread further and the people will lose faith in the government,” wrote Azad-
Consequences of the fall
Mandogar Daily predicted that the war has already begun and will not be confined to one region. “The fall of a city as big, key and strategic as Kunduz indicates a shift in the geography of war. From now on, battles will not be limited to one location, but will shift from place to place. The price for this shift could be heavy and disastrous,” wrote the Mandogar contributor.
Arman-e Milli daily focused on the negligence of local officials in Kunduz, calling for the government to hold those responsible accountable. The daily said the fall of Kunduz was an “embarassment” for a “weak government.”
Not enough action from acting minister
Afghanistan Daily focused on the relative strengths of the Taliban vis-a-vis the government's lack of leadership. “The Taliban launched their biggest attack since their fall in 2001 and an acting minister has been leading the war for the Afghan government for the past year. Security institutions are not well-coordinated and their plans do not improve the situation – actually, their plans deteriorate the situation.”
Conspiracy theories and accusatory tones filled the airwaves and TV studios in and around Kabul. .
"The fight against the Taliban should start against the fifth column in the presidential palace,” said Jawid Kohistani, a political analyst participating in a roundtable on Noor TV. The 'fifth column' refers to individuals in the presidential palace and the government who are said to support the Taliban and Pakistan. “We do not need to fight the Taliban in battlefields to defeat them,” added Kohistani. “We need to fight in the Presidential Palace to defeat the fifth column.”
Kohistani went as far as to suggest that the government had allowed the Taliban to attack Kunduz.
“Kunduz fell as a result of a deal”
“Kunduz fell as a result of a deal,” echoed Muhammad Azim Mohsini, a Parliamentarian also present in the roundtable on Noor TV. Mohsini accused the Kunduz governor, who has since fled, of having relations with the Taliban.
Ahmad Shah Ramazan, another member of the Parliament, added his voice to the conspiracy theory on Ariana News where he said that the main reasons for the fall of Kunduz were “secret deals between the Taliban and certain senior government officials.” Ramazan did not name any individuals but placed the blame at the feet of Chief Executive Abdullah and President Ghani.
Others said the government had simply failed to win hearts and minds in Kunduz. “The Taliban insurgents entered Kunduz City with the guidance of some local residents,” said Muhammad Nazir Ahmadzai, another Parliamentarian talking on Ariana News. “The government of Afghanistan will not be able to defeat the Taliban without achieving the support of the people.”
A former deputy minister at the Ministry of the Interior, Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, participating in another discussion on Tolo News, crticised the military's strategy. “The management of the battle was weak and security forces operated under their own plan. If the government does not review the management of battles, we will witness worse disasters compared with what happened in Kunduz,” forewarned Yarmand.
"Support our honest men"
The plight of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in Kunduz has to some extent however rallied Afghans on social media. “ The Taliban once again clearly showed that their logic is terror, rape, violence, theft and looting,” Ahmad Fazam, a Facebook user, wrote on his wall. “It is time for all of us to support our security forces and our honest men and women in uniform. We should not allow terrorists to rule any part of the country for a second and have the chance to destroy.”