The PJ Tatler

How Bad are Things in Afghanistan? This Bad

The closer the date approaches when the last US soldier leaves Afghanistan, the more unstable the country becomes.

Evidence of that was displayed by some employees at a branch of Afghanistan’s central bank. One afternoon, a senior official at the bank, along with his son and brother-in-law — also employees of the bank — cleaned out the vault, stole the closed circuit camera recording their deed, and walked out with $1.4 million. The branch was located near the border with Pakistan and it’s believed that’s where the crooks went.

Reuters:

“Yesterday we could only open one of the treasury’s doors. We hope to open the next one today,” the central bank director for Afghanistan’s southwestern region, Fazel Ahmad Azimi, said.

Weak regulation undermines confidence in Afghanistan’s fragile banking system, which has yet to fully recover from a 2010 scandal over a bank that collapsed triggering a financial crisis.

An international financial watchdog last year threatened to place Afghanistan on a blacklist and has since warned it needs to do more to enforce laws to regulate its banking sector.

The Kandahar raid is believed to have been carried out by a senior official at the bank, an employee of nine years, with the help of his son and brother-in-law who were also on staff, according to Azimi.

The robbery at the branch in Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan was discovered on Thursday and investigators believed the group has escaped to Pakistan.

The group had removed CCTV recordings before fleeing to Pakistan, Azimi said, but investigators were hopeful that footage might be recovered from the memory chip of the security cameras.

They don’t sound very hopeful, do they? In a way, you wonder why this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often in countries as screwed up as Afghanistan. These crooks proved how easy it is. Authorities apparently didn’t discover the theft for more than 24 hours.

It appears now that the Taliban — the “good” Taliban, mind you — may be willing to open negotiations with the Afghan government for the purpose of accepting their surrender.

Of course, no one is saying that. But does anyone believe any “power sharing” arrangement with the current Afghanistan government would not result in a complete takeover by the Taliban — perhaps in a matter of months?

Reuters:

Senior Pakistani army, Afghan and diplomatic officials said on Thursday the Afghan Taliban had signalled they were willing to open peace talks with Kabul.

The reports raised hopes for a breakthrough in peace efforts following the withdrawal of most U.S.-led troops last year, and of a boost for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The renewed push for negotiations appeared to be driven by evolving relationships between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, which recently offered to help broker talks.

On Thursday, a senior Pakistani military official said Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, told Ghani during a visit this week the Taliban were willing to begin negotiations as early as March.

“They have expressed their willingness and there will be progress in March. But these things are not so quick and easy,” the official, who is close to the army chief, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“But there are very clear signals … and we have communicated it to the Afghans. Now many things are with the Afghans and they are serious.”

Taliban representatives including official spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid cast doubt on the possibility of talks, saying they still opposed negotiations. The group has repeatedly said it will talk to the United States but not the Kabul government.

A senior member of the Afghan Taliban said by telephone from Qatar their negotiators would hold a first round of talks with U.S. officials in Qatar on Thursday.

But U.S. officials in Washington denied the United States was holding talks, direct or indirect, with the Taliban. A White House spokeswoman said the United States remained supportive of an Afghan-led reconciliation process in which the Taliban and the Afghan government engaged in talks.

New Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter says the US may extend our deployment beyond the 2016 deadline. If so, the Obama administration may be waking up to the fact that the Afghan army is incapable of ensuring security without help from the Americans. The Taliban we may or may not be talking to in Qatar are not the Taliban that is committing atrocities in Afghanistan. Until we can identify just who it is we should be talking with in the Taliban, any negotiations will be fruitless.