Going in Circles
As U.S. and other forces begin leaving Afghanistan, targeted Taliban violence has escalated throughout the country. The crash of a U.S. military helicopter in eastern Afghanistan recently, killing 30 American Navy SEALs, is one of the deadliest incidents involving U.S. troops since the war began. This highlights the fact that Taliban power is resurging in a major bid to regain control over lost territories. Prior to the helicopter crash, some key political figures were assassinated and, who knows, there may be many more on the list. Among those eliminated were President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the provincial council of Kandahar; Dawood Dawood, police chief of northern Afghanistan; Jan Mohammed Khan and lawmaker Hashim Watanwal while there has been an attempt on the life of Home Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.
Some 10,000 U.S. troops are already lined up to leave Afghanistan while local security duties are being gradually transferred from NATO forces to Afghan police in various parts of the country. This is the most critical phase for the U.S. forces as their invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks and their decade long presence in the country has not produced the kind of results they were looking for and they still do not seem to have any clue as to how the situation will develop in the coming times. The U.S. strategy to weaken Taliban resistance and get rid of the top Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership has also not seen much success.
The U.S. had pinned high hopes on the Afghan National Army to take over the country’s security but that does not seem to be happening as the locally recruited army does not appear to be adequately trained for the new responsibility. Therefore, once the major component of the U.S. forces leaves, President Hamid Karzai would not be left with much support to stop the ingressing Taliban or to take over Taliban-controlled territories. The biggest threat is from Southern Afghanistan which was somehow held together by the slain Ahmed Wali Karzai.
All along, the U.S. has been making efforts to engineer some kind of a reconciliation with the Taliban but that too has fizzled out, especially since Washington requires Taliban leaders to disarm, disown Al Qaeda and recognize the government in Afghanistan besides accepting the constitution and giving due value to basic rights for women. It is obvious that since no elements in the Taliban leadership are anywhere near to accepting these conditions, they will continue to resist and further escalate the violence while the occupying forces will continue to go around in circles. The only problem is that while the U.S. and other foreign forces reset their priorities, the human cost of the prolonged Afghan conflict will continue to be paid by the innocent civilians.