US losing control of Afghanistan?

Suicide bombers killed 26 people in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province Jan. 16, heightening fears that Taliban militants are copying the tactics of Iraqi insurgents. An attacker riding a motorcycle blew himself up as a crowd left a wrestling match in Spin Boldak, on the Pakistan border, killing 20 and wounding at least 20 more. It was the deadliest suicide attack since US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Hours earlier, three Afghan soldiers and a civilian died in a suspected Taliban suicide car-bombing in Kandahar city. Another car bomb in Kandahar Jan. 8 claimed the lives of a Canadian diplomat and two Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the strike.

The attacks are the latest in a wave of more than 20 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Most have been aimed at US-led forces, their NATO allies and Afghan government forces. (AFP, Jan. 17)

After the Spin Boldak attack, some 1,000 people marched in protest, chanting “Death to Pakistan,” as they accused Islamabad of being behind behind the terrorism. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. (Ireland Online, Jan. 18)

There are growing signs that Afghanistan is spinning out of control. Notes the Center for Defense Information, Jan. 17:

Overshadowed by the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the conflict in Afghanistan quietly suffered through its most deadly year since the start of operations in late 2001. Similar to the war in Iraq, the original victory and quick defeat of the former government has transformed into a dangerous insurgent war. Higher casualty rates in Afghanistan last year created skepticism amongst analysts over statements made by U.S. military officials in Afghanistan claiming that the Taliban threat was nearing its end. If the statistics serve as a valid indicator, then concern over the ‘resurging Taliban threat’ in Afghanistan is legitimate…

The death toll of all war related deaths in Afghanistan is consistently reported at nearing 1,500 for the year the 2005, making it by far the most deadly year since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001.

The swift initial U.S. victory in 2001 and consequent Taliban exodus is a faint memory when compared to the dangerous threat the ‘enemies of Afghanistan’ posed in 2005. (‘Enemies of Afghanistan’ is a termed used by Afghan government officials to describe the Taliban and other affiliated groups such as al-Qaida and Hezb-i-Islami.) […]

U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan increased nearly two fold in 2005, from 51 deaths in 2004 to 99 in 2005. ISAF forces also suffered an increase in troop deaths despite NATO’s sole confinement to peacekeeping missions focused around military and civilian Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), as compared to the U.S. forces that conduct highly dangerous anti-insurgency operations. ISAF suffered the loss of 30 soldiers last year compared to nine in 2004.

In an unprecedented expansion of their Afghan mission, NATO troops are now scheduled to replace some 2,000 departing US soldiers from the “Enduring Freedom” force which occupied the country in November 2001. Dutch lawmakers are set to vote on the dispatch of 1,400 troops, with most of the opposition parties opposed to the deployment.

NATO secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged the Netherlands to show “solidarity” with other NATO members who are boosting their contingents in Afghanistan. The Dutch troops would be assigned to preside over the southern Uruzgan provice which is being vacated by the US forces. The Dutch parliament does not actually have the power to veto the deployment. (AKI, Jan. 9)

See our last post on Afghanistan.