More reason to leave Afghanistan quagmire
While turmoil continues in much of the Middle East, supposedly stoked by a poorly made film that offers an insulting and cartoonish portrait of Mohammed, more disturbing events are unfolding in Afghanistan.
Following a wave of killings of U.S. and NATO troops by Afghan soldiers that our forces are supposed to be training, commanders have suspended most joint patrols with Afghan forces.
That’s certainly understandable. It’s impossible to justify sending our troops out to hunt for the Taliban when they can’t be sure whether the Afghan soldiers marching beside them are actually Taliban or Taliban sympathizers who will shoot them in the back the minute they get a chance.
Just last weekend, four Americans and two British soldiers were killed in what are known as insider attacks. And this is not just a recent response to the aforementioned film, which only began to spark Muslim outrage last week.
According to Associated Press numbers, 51 international troops have been killed so far this year by Afghan forces or infiltrators wearing Afghan uniforms. That’s nearly one in five of the 279 international soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year.
But, the reasonable decision to halt most joint patrols with Afghan forces raises another, even more troubling question:
Training Afghan troops to take full responsibility for their country’s security after 2014 has been the primary feature of NATO and American strategy in that country. But, if our forces can no longer train the Afghans in joint patrols because they can’t trust them, what exactly is our strategy?
Not to worry, claim NATO and U.S. officials. This is just a temporary reset until the situation in Afghanistan calms down.
But others aren’t so sure. One military expert told the Huffington Post that the change represents “a hammer blow to NATO’s strategy of handing security over to reliable Afghan security forces in 2014.”
Moreover, there is little evidence that things will become calmer. Although NATO officials have insisted the momentum for the insurgency has been broken, a British analysis last week noted that the Taliban has increased its violent activities over the past couple years and is capable of more violence now than before the surge in U.S. troops that began in 2010.
On top of that, testimony before Congress in July noted the culture of “corruption, patronage, nepotism and factionalism” that could derail any effort by the Afghan army to protect the country.
We have an ally we can’t trust in a largely stone-age country where tribalism triumphs over central government.
We have a strategy that wasn’t working when it was in force.
And we have now abandoned that strategy, at least temporarily, with no apparent plan to replace it.
Why, exactly, are we keeping tens of thousands of our troops in Afghanistan until 2014?