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Losing Afghanistan

The fighting in Afghanistan has escalated sharply in recent weeks. On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded market in the northern city of Kunduz. Nine people, including three German soldiers, were killed. On Sunday, a suicide bomber walked into a crowded market in the eastern city of Gardez and blew himself up, damaging about 30 shops, killing 14 and wounding 31. Reports indicate that a convoy of foreign troops that had just passed by appeared to be the target of the suicide bomber. Also on Sunday, insurgents ambushed a U.S.-led coalition and Afghan patrol in the Taliban's southern stronghold, sparking a battle and air strikes that killed 25 suspected insurgents. Coalition bombers hammered seven compounds causing three secondary explosions during the 14-hour battle. More than 1,600 people, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on U.S., NATO and Afghan officials. The dead have mostly been militants, but about 300 civilians also have died in the violence.

While the violence rages, Afghanistan's politicians appear to losing their will to carry on the fight against the Taliban. On May 10, the Afghan Senate approved a motion calling for direct negotiations with the Taliban by an overwhelming majority. As Reuters reported at the time support for the coalition forces in Afghanistan is weakening:

The senate, the upper house of the Afghan parliament, also urged Western troops in the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces to halt the hunt for Taliban fighters and other militants.

The motion comes at a time of rising public discontent with the government of President Hamid Karzai over civilian casualties at the hands of Western troops, corruption and the failure to turn billions of dollars in aid into better livelihoods.

The senate said efforts should be made to find out the demands of the Taliban and other opponents and in the meantime military operations against them should cease. "If the need arises for an operation, it should be carried out with coordination of the national army and police and with the consultation of the government of Afghanistan."

Karzai himself hasn't exactly been pouring cold water on the idea of negotiating with the Taliban.

In January, Karzai said his government would be open to peace talks with the Taliban.

In April, Karzai spoke openly about the discussions he had been having with the Taliban. "We have had representatives from the Taliban meeting with different bodies of Afghan government for a long time," Karzai said at a news conference, refusing to give any details. "I have had some Taliban coming to speak to me as well."

Sympathy for the Taliban appears to run deep in the upper circles of Afghanistan's government:

The Afghan Senate president, Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, a close Karzai ally, is also in charge of the reconciliation commission. At the reconciliation ceremony last month, he seemed more sympathetic to the Taliban than to foreign troops, saying that a senior Taliban leader had been "martyred" by U.S. troops.

This is, of course, all very bad news for the war on terror. We have never had enough forces in Afghanistan to decisively defeat the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies. During the buildup to the Iraq War, critical resources and special forces were diverted away from the theater. Al Qaeda's leadership has survived largely intact and is reported to be functioning out of Pakistan. Now, the Afghan Senate wants us to stop hunting the Taliban and wants Karzai to commence negotiations with them. Our military's current efforts in Afghanistan are, of course, totally unsustainable without the support of that country's democratically-elected government. In short, we are losing Afghanistan.

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Comments (1)

Steve Crickmore:

Bush typically today at his press conference with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at his ranch in Crawford, said "The Taliban likes to surround themselves with innocent civilians. That's their -- part of their modus operandi. They don't mind using human shields because they devalue human life."

Bantz Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander said of the decision to bomb or not Taliban positions (with human shields)

"It becomes a decision that we have to go out and look at as to gains and losses" Loss of popular support versus gains of taking out one, two, three of the bad guys. ..(loss of popular support means inflicting civilian casualties) from Air Force B-1B bombers and F-15E fighters and their 2,000 pound and 500 pound satellite-guided bombs."
By this kind mathematical reasoning, no wonder the Afghans wish us to start negotiations with the Taliban.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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