Anne Smedinghoff: Diplomat's Death a Reminder Our Situation in Afghanistan Remains Dim

On September 11, 2001, members of Al-Qaeda attacked our nation, killing roughly 3,000 Americans. When the Taliban in Afghanistan refused to give up Osama Bin Laden, the United States invaded with support from Congress, the Senate, and the international community.

The U.S. quickly brought down the Taliban as Al-Qaeda members fled to Pakistan. Although the Pakistan government claims to be aiding the U.S., many Pakistan officials continue to harbor Taliban and Al-Qaeda. For this reason, many fear the Taliban will return to power after the U.S. withdraws troops.

In Afghanistan, a legitimate government has replaced the Taliban; however, due to corruption, it is not stable. Furthermore, many suspect that Afghan forces are incapable of functioning without U.S backing. Lastly, internal strife plagues the country due to the presence of competing ethnic groups within Afghanistan. For example, the larger Pashtun group, which houses much of the Taliban, is constantly at odds with other minority groups.

As a result, many fear that U.S. withdrawal will leave the country plagued by civil war, and, unfortunately, recent events have close to convince me of this unfortunate unfortunate truth.

This weekend, a long, drawn out battle between Afghan forces and the Taliban indicated that a new season of fighting has begun. The battle came to an end only after American forces called in an air strike, demonstrating the inability of Afghan forces to work on their own. The strike killed one senior Taliban reporter but also a number of civilians, including children.

The attempt for Afghan forces to operate on their own failed for many reasons. One officer said, “If we had an attack helicopter, the fight would be over,” demonstrating a lack of military equipment and technology. Similarly, communication was a substantial issue. Each force, including both police and military, used different radios and, therefore, were forced to rely on cell phones. 

Furthermore, civilian causalities have continually proved to be an issue. President Hamid Karzai has long fought with the U.S. and NATO regarding civilian causalities. To put it simply, civilian causalities do not encourage support for Karzai and his U.S.-backed government. As the U.S. aims to pull out of Afghanistan, it is urgent that Afghan civilians of ethnic groups support Karzai and his government; however, admittedly, this seems increasingly unlikely everyday .

Azam Ahmed of the New York Times eloquently stated, “Attacks are picking up in what is known as the country’s fighting season as the weather gets warmer. And the Taliban are expected to intensify their efforts to destabilize the Afghan security forces as the NATO troops who have secured the country for the last decade start packing up for their departure at the end of 2014.” In fact, on Saturday, a suicide car bombing killed three American soldiers and two American civilians.

The recent news only serves to exacerbate the unfortunate situation in Afghanistan. American and Afghan forces have failed to establish a stable government and efficient forces, and, as a result, the country will be prone to civil war as American troops withdraw. On the other hand, many Americans are understandably eager to refocus America’s attention on domestic policies.

All I can say is that I sure am glad I'm not the one calling the shots. What a mess!