The president's trip north to Badakhshan was met with a cold reception by local activists angry at the weak response from the central government folllowing an insurgent attack on a military outpost last week in
President Ghani’s visit to Badakhshan was labeled “ceremonial” by many local civil activists and journalists, who criticized Afghanistan's head of state for failing to send a strong enough message as commander-in-chief following a spate of recent insurgent attacks in the northern province.
Insurgent attack on military outpost kills 28
Last week insurgents, believed to be ISIS, who according to official sources have taken credit for the deadly siege, attacked a military outpost in Khustak, Jurm district, killing 28 people – 10 of which were beheaded – according to Badakhshan security officials. A number of Badakhshan MPs disputed the casualty figures however, claiming more than 50 people were killed in the attack. Security officials and government officers were allegedly intoxicated before the insurgents overran them, according to local sources, but no official has yet confirmed or denied this version of events.
In his speech on Saturday April 18, Ghani, accompanied by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, called on the people of Badakhshan to “choose either ISIS, international terrorism or the Afghan people”. The former World Bank official said illegal mining, terrorism and anarchy could turn Badakhshan into “a threat for the whole world.”
"A few pieces of advice, nothing else"
Badakhshan residents listen to the president's speech. (Photos: Khushqadam Usmani)
Protests were held against local security officials in Badakhshan’s capital Faizabad and Kabul last week following the attacks and the president’s speech did little to quell local anger. “The president had said during his election campaign that if he won the election he would put an end to the illegal armed men in mines, rogue elements and bullying that were the bases of instability in Badakhshan province,” wrote local Hasht-e Subh correspondent Samiullah Sayhoon in the weekend edition of Afghanistan’s largest daily. “Aside from a few ethical pieces of advice and an emotional speech to reign in the anger of the people, he had nothing else to say.”
Shamsudeen Adeeb, a Badakhshan-based freelance journalist, concurred. “The people were expecting more than this,” Adeeb told Afghanistan Today. “The president should have expressed a strong message so that the enemies of Afghanistan could know that the government is stronger than they are, but the president had no answer to the people of Badakhshan. His visit was mostly ceremonial,” added Adeeb.
New local Army Corps postponed
Badakhshan Civil Society Association head Saifuddin Saies, who in a declaration two days before the president's visit asked for the dismissal of local government officials for negligence of their duties, was also disappointed by President Ghani’s words. “We expected the president to come with a planned document to Badakhshan and in close discussion with the people asses the security situation. Unfortunately he did not do that, nor did he discuss the core issues. Instead he finished his visit with a ceremonial meeting,” lamented Saies.
Saies says he and other local stakeholders had hoped to discuss the creation of a Badakhshan Army Corps, which was also discussed at the National Security Council (NSC), to defend the strategic location, but the president asked for time to consider this issue, according to Saies. “If a massive and strong operation is not launched to clear the province from insurgents, it could create a headache for the government in the future,” he added.
Sabair Mazlom, a teacher trainer who was present at Ghani’s press conference, agreed that there was little to draw from the president’s words. “I was waiting for the president to say something new but I must admit there was not a specific message in regard to reconstruction or security in Badkhshan province. Just like the president said, he was here to express his condolences,” said Mazlom.
Ghani promises full investigation
The president did however promise a full investigation. “We are investigating the incident in Jurm district and afterwards those people found guilty will be prosecuted,” Ghani told the gathered crowd in Badakhshan.