Kabul security district to be expanded
Ten-year project will reshape city center and extend American presence
KABUL, Afghanistan — Soon, U.S. Embassy employees in Kabul will no longer need to take a Chinook helicopter ride to cross the street to a military base less than 100 yards outside the present Green Zone security district.
Instead, the boundaries of the Green Zone will be redrawn to include that base, known as the Kabul City Compound, formerly the headquarters for U.S. Special Operations forces in the capital. The zone is separated from the rest of the city by a network of police, military and private security checkpoints.
The expansion is part of a huge public works project that over the next two years will reshape the center of this city of 5 million to bring nearly all Western embassies, major government ministries, and NATO and U.S. military headquarters within the protected area.
After 16 years of American presence in Kabul, it is a stark acknowledgment that even the city’s central districts have become too difficult to defend from Taliban bombings.
But the capital project is also clearly taking place to protect another long-term U.S. investment: Along with an increase in troops to a reported 15,000, from around 11,000 at the moment, the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan is likely to keep the military in place well into the 2020s, even by the most conservative estimates.
No one wants to say when any final pullout will take place because the emphasis now is on a conditions-based withdrawal — presumably meaning after the Afghan government can handle the war alone. But President Donald Trump has kept secret the details of those conditions, and how they are defined.
“Until he says what the conditions are, all that means is we’ll be there as long as we want, for whatever reason we want,” said Barnett Rubin, a longtime Afghanistan expert who advised the Obama administration. “And they don’t have to lie to do that because the conditions will never be good enough to say we’re absolutely not needed.”
In practical terms, it means that the U.S. military mission will continue for many more years, despite its unpopularity with the American public. Many military strategists, in the United States and Afghanistan, have already penciled in plans well into the ’20s, and certainly past any Trump re-election campaign.
At the NATO summit meeting in Warsaw last year, the allies, including the United States, agreed to fund the development of the Afghan security forces until the end of what was termed “the transition decade,” meaning from 2014, when Afghan forces began to take charge of their own security, until 2024.
“I would guess the U.S. has to plan on being inside Afghanistan for a decade or more in order for there to be any type of resolution,” said Bill Roggio, editor of
Long War Journal. “It’s definitely past his first term in office, no two ways about it.”
The Green Zone expansion is aimed at making it possible for the United States and its NATO allies to remain in the capital without facing the risks that have in the past year made Kabul the most dangerous place in Afghanistan, with more people killed there than anywhere else in the country — mostly from suicide bombers.
The Kabul Green Zone expansion, which will significantly restrict access, was prompted, according to both Afghan and U.S. military officials, by a huge suicide bomb planted in a sewage truck that exploded at a gate of the current Green Zone on May 31, destroying most of the German Embassy and killing more than 150 people.
An Afghan police officer surveyed damage from a recent truck bomb near several embassies in Kabul, Afghanistan. A major public works project over the next two years will reshape the city’s central districts that have become too difficult to defend from Taliban bombings.