Foreign Policy Blogs

NATO Mistakes Too Costly as July Drawdown Nears

The most difficult thing to countenance when one is an analyst-watcher-critic of Afghan politics and society is the nearly weekly news that some child or innocent woman has been killed in NATO airstrikes or nightly door to door counter-terrorist operations.  This, any time of the year, any year at all.

But this is a different time under unpromising circumstances.  This year, this season, this summer President Barack Obama has pledged to begin the steady removal of combat troops from Afghanistan while further redistributing the troops who will remain stationed there to confront an ever-more energized enemy-the Taliban. Things are touch and go now and it’s not so much the fact of the deaths that seems to gut one, even though each such death is regrettable, inexcusable, even if explicable.  It’s rather that the U.S and its NATO allies can ill-afford to make the kinds of grave mistakes it has made recently even as the commanders of the field have ramped up counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency moves against the Taliban.  Those  attacks have proved to be deeply unpopular since many innocent people seemed to have died in those operations.

The NATO led attack that accidentally killed 14 innocent victims, indeed mostly women and children, in Helmand Province over the weekend comes only a bit more than a month before the July drawdown. It also comes a month and more after the Taliban’s declared spring offensive.  These attacks gone awry not only infuriate the Afghan on the street and his brothers in far-off villages, they also provide cover for President Karzai’s double dealings with his so-called NATO allies.  And there is finally the regrettable fact that these accidental, unfortunate killings stir up already inflamed public passions which are then readily swayed by the recruitment narratives the Taliban spins.

These attacks are then a gift to the Taliban in the way that they double back on the U.S precisely by making the local populace stand against the U.S and its NATO allies.  These attacks then hinder the goals of counterinsurgency and push back the small successes docketed in Afghanistan.

Indeed, just today at least 4 NATO troops were killed in renewed  Taliban attacks. This follows a deadly Taliban attack wherein at least two Afghan police commanders and German troops were killed and the the German NATO officer who is in charge of the North was Afghanistan was wounded.  In the meantime the Taliban attacked the western city of Herat, long thought politically settled and peaceful-long considered an area with which the Taliban had not bothered.  This move might well signal that the Taliban are spreading across the country trying to show up in places where their presence was not missed.  Certainly the attack signals that not even Herat is safe from the Taliban’s maneuvers.  It is not a coincidence that Herat has been designated one of the first cities that will be handed back to Afghans under the terms of the drawdown beginning July of this year.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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