Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Is the surge failing in Afghanistan?
Six months into the surge in Afghanistan, Americans and Afghans alike are asking the question whether it has worked and the ugly reality is that it has failed to make a difference, writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.
To be sure, as U.S. President Barack Obama said last week only half the reinforcements he ordered in December have arrived and there is still more than a year to go before the troop withdrawals begin.
But comparisons with Iraq – America’s other war – are hard to push away and they don’t look good at all. Diehl says five months into the Iraq surge in 2007, sectarian violence was dropping, Sunni tribes were turning against al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government was delivering on its promises.
Afghanistan, in contrast, is a failure on all these counts. Violence has gone up and it cannot just be because more troops have been deployed in new areas and there is more fighting. As we wrote earlier, there were 400 attacks in one week in April, a majority of them roadside bombs.
On Tuesday, the Taliban struck in heavily-guarded Kabul, killing 18 people including six foreign troops in a suicide attack on a NATO convoy. It was the biggest loss for NATO since September and the deadliest attack in the capital since a February raid.
On the same day, across the border in Pakistan a bicycle bomb ripped through the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan killing 12 people, and you begin to wonder if Obama’s entire regional war strategy policy is at risk of unravelling.
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While the Taliban seemed to have launched their promised “spring offensive” with these attacks, the U.S.-led coalition is having a re-think about the planned operation in Kandahar, according to a clutch of media reports.
Key military operations have been delayed until the fall, efforts to improve local government are having little impact, and a Taliban assassination campaign has brought a sense of dread to Kandahar’s dusty streets, McClatchy newspapers wrote this week. NATO officials once spoke of demonstrating major progress by mid-August, but U.S. commanders now say the turning point may not be reached until November, and perhaps later, it said.
They are not even calling it an offensive any more, its a process of incremental changes rather than a D-day big bang operation. The idea is to slowly build up government authority in the Taliban’s spiritual capital. But even that aim is under threat with the insurgents picking off the leaders the West would rely upon the most to pacify Kandahar, as the Los Angeles Times reported, pointing to the assassination of Kandahar’s respected deputy mayor.