Foreign Policy Blogs

Embarrassing Attack From Many Directions

afghan-soldiers-2.jpgIt is amazing how one incident, at times, can symbolize so much.

Weeks ago, on November 27, in northwest Afghanistan, Taliban forces ambushed a large convoy of Afghan soldiers and policemen, killing 14, wounding 27, kidnapping another 20, and destroying or stealing over 20 vehicles. How could such a successful attack occur against soldiers and policemen in what was one of the more stable areas of the country?

First off, it appears that President Karzai pardoned the would be planner and leader of the attack, Maulavi Ghulam Dastagir, just weeks before, as he was in custody for aiding the Taliban! Tribal leaders and friends apparently convinced Karzai that Dastagir was a good citizen and mistakenly arrested and accused. In a complicated conflict with foes and friends difficult to distinguish from, it surely is tough at times to know when one is punishing an innocent, and therefore pushing him and his followers/friends/family to the insurgency, or constructively putting behind bars a dangerous individual.

In this instance Karzai was dead wrong, though he has been loathed to say so, and many soldiers and policeman paid the price. Dastagir taunted authorities after the incident and all strongly claimed that he was behind the attack:

“Definitely!” he exclaimed, and laughed again. “I am a jihadist, I will continue my jihad,” he declared. “My morale is very high.”

Another unfortunate aspect of the attack is how it symbolizes the growth of the insurgency and the weakness of the Afghan army and police force. The attack occurred in the northwest province of Badghis, once thought to be stable and near insurgent free. The Taliban are obviously gaining strength and becoming more ambitious in the their missions. On the other hand, it is disconcerting to see such a weak defensive showing by the Afghan troops and police. I’m sure they fought bravely, but they sustained an embarrassing amount of losses. In most incidents involving NATO/US forces, it is the Taliban who have taken the brunt of the casualties. The training and supplying of the Afghan army and police units appears to still need some major work.

What does this specific incident say to you about the overall Afghan situation? Just a simple Taliban attack not to be overblown? Or something more?



Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

Great Decisions Discussion group