Is Afghanistan the “new Iraq”?

Last week, Doonesbury‘s GI Ray Hightower blogged home bitterly from Baghdad that “Iraq is the new Afghanistan”—meaning the American public has largely forgotten that there is a war going on. Today’s news indicates Afghanistan may actually be becoming the new Iraq. A top news story today is a violent anti-US protest in Jalalabad, sparked by a report in Newsweek that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay placed Korans on toilets to rattle suspects, and in at least one case “flushed a holy book down the toilet.” Shouting “Death to America,” protesters stoned a passing US convoy, attacked the Pakistani consulate and smashed shop windows. Four were killed and over 70 wounded when police fired on the crowd. (AP, May 11)

Buried deeper in the news are reports of a fierce firefight involving U.S. troops at a cave complex in Laghman, east of Kabul, in which two US Marines and numerous Taliban rebels were killed. (Al-Jazeera, May 9)

A report in yesterday’s NY Times had President Hamid Karzai extending an amnesty offer to resistance fighters in exchange for peace—including Taliban leader Mullah Omar and anti-US warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. But the Times made clear that the US had de facto veto power over this ostensible decision by the soveriegn government of Afghanistan, and would not allow it: “However, an American military spokesman seemed to suggest that the two suspects could not be included in the program.” And sure enough, today’s news has Karzai backpedalling. He told Radio Free Europe “We have not spoken of an amnesty for Mullah Omar.” This appears to contradict statements made two days earleir by his own peace commissioner, Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi.

See our last blog post on the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.