Fighting in Afghanistan Getting Closer to Croatian Troops

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Croatian army getting closer to the action in Afghanistan.

The conflict between the Afghan army and the Taliban rebels has reached Mazar-i-Sharif. As news agencies report, the Taliban have tried to occupy the building of the Indian Embassy in order to destroy the possibility of political rapprochement between India and Afghanistan, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on January 5, 2016.

For Croatian troops which are serving in Afghanistan and for Croatian military analysts this is a very interesting event, since the largest foreign military base in the north of the country, Marmal, is located just five kilometres from Mazar-i-Sharif, and Croatian troops are located in that base. So far, Mazar-i-Sharif has not been the scene of major fighting precisely because of a large number of foreign troops. However, the situation has begun to change in recent weeks and months, and heavy fighting and bombings are almost a daily occurrence.

The rapid deterioration of the security situation has been caused by the accumulation of members of various radical Islamist groups. All of them have as their targets Western soldiers, including the ones from Croatia. Croatian troops in Afghanistan are not formally in a combat mission, since their duties are mentoring and training the members of the Afghan army whose capabilities are currently quite weak. Croatian Ministry of Defence has repeatedly denied newspaper reports that members of the Croatian Army are participating in direct clashes with the Taliban. But, it is obvious that, when members of the Afghan army go to a mission, they are accompanied by their mentors.

The attack on the Indian Embassy in Mazar-i-Sharif indicates that there is a number of strategic questions which have not yet been answered: how to deal with tribal politics, how to stem the support for insurgents from neighbouring Pakistan, how to create a credible government in Kabul and viable local security network, and how to do all that with as little civilian casualties as possible.

The biggest challenge for the West is to avoid mistakes made during the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan and how to become the first foreign power which has left Afghanistan in a better shape than it was before.

Since the ISAF mission has so far included more than 1,500 Croatian soldiers and the total cost per soldier is about 450,000 kuna, Croatian taxpayers have so far paid at least 670 million kuna for the ten-year involvement of Croatian troops in Afghanistan.


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