Afghanistan's Successes and Failures of 2015

After a year of bad news, Afghans are searching for reasons to remain hopeful.

Last year was full of ups and downs for Afghans and their government. The rise and expansion of ISIS, the growing insecurity in northern Afghanistan, the fall of Kunduz into the hands of the Taliban and the exodus of Afghans into Europe were each, in their own way, a failure. On the other hand, the kick-off of the TAPI pipeline project, the country’s accession to the WTO, the start of development work on Salma Dam and the progress toward building regional consensus were all notable successes for the National Unity Government.

It is often said that the greatest failures are life’s greatest lessons. What lessons, then, can Afghanistan learn from 2015 for the year ahead?

The Taliban’s Fragmentation

After news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar was leaked by Afghan intelligence, the Taliban divided into two groups, one led by Mullah Akhtar Mansour and the other by Mullah Mohammad Rassoul. They fought each other in the Zabul and Helmand provinces to gain control over the leadership ranks. Neither really succeeded, and the Taliban remains fragmented. So far, the Afghan government has failed to make use of this internal division in the Taliban to gain the upper hand. Of course, whether it was possible to do so is debatable because of security gaps and internal fragmentation in the National Unity Government itself. Moreover, the rise of Daesh is in part a product of that fragmentation.

The Fall of Kunduz

The fall of Kunduz and the Taliban's brief control thereof was significant for two reasons. First, it demonstrated that while the Taliban is fragmented it is nonetheless far stronger than before, and thus has the ability to challenge the writ of the government and exploit gaps in the security institutions. The special commission appointed by President Ashraf Ghani found a lack of security coordination to be the main cause of the province’s fall. Second, the fall of Kunduz highlighted not only significant gaps in the government’s security institutions, but also how those gaps are exacerbated by the internal problems and disagreements that plague the National Unity Government (NUG).

Failing to Form a Consensus