NEW YORK, June 20, 2013 — On Tuesday, June 18, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said insurgents fired two rockets into the Bagram Air Base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul.
American officials confirmed the base had come under attack by indirect fire, likely a mortar or rocket, and that four U.S. troops were killed.
Also on Tuesday, five Afghan police officers were killed at a security outpost in Helmand province by apparent Taliban infiltrators, the latest in a string of so-called “insider attacks” that have shaken the confidence of the nascent Afghan security forces.
Yet again on Tuesday, this same Taliban opened what they call the embassy of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in Dohar, Qatar, and in the formal speech at “embassy’s” opening ceremony stated: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan simultaneously follows military and political actions.” A Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, confirmed before the Bagram strike that the armed group would continue to attack US targets in Afghanistan at the same time as holding any talks.
“There is no ceasefire (with the US) now. They are attacking us and we are attacking them,” Shaheen told the Al-Jazeera news channel. In the announcement to open their “embassy” the Taliban did not renounce Al-Qaeda.
On this very same Tuesday, the White House heralded the “milestone” opening of a Taliban office in Doha. President Obama agreed to drop a series of preconditions and open direct talks with Taliban leaders. “There were going to be some areas of friction, to put it mildly, in getting this thing off the ground,” Obama conceded to reporters during a visit to Berlin. “That’s not surprising. They’ve been fighting there for a long time. There’s enormous mistrust.”
Areas of friction, like bombing U.S. military bases and killing young Americans? That kind of friction?
In the past, Washington insisted on two pre-conditions before it would countenance talks: a cessation of hostilities and, crucially, a firm commitment from the group to cut its ties with al-Qaeda. The Taliban retained its al Qaeda ties and bombed Bagram killing Americans.
It is not surprising then that the Telegraph of London carried the headline, “Barack Obama has given the Taliban the upper hand in Afghanistan.” Conn Coughlin highlights President Obama’s thorough and disgraceful abandonment of principle, “Mullah Omar remains the Taliban’s most influential voice. His reluctance, even now, to make a public declaration denouncing his support for al-Qaeda is a graphic illustration of the weakness of Mr. Obama’s negotiating position.”
On May 23, 2013 at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington, Obama said this:
“After I took office … we pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces …
“In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter terrorism force, which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe haven to launch attacks against us or our allies …
“In the Afghan war theater, we must, and will, continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014 …
“The Afghan war is coming to an end.”
Curious. The New York Times reports attacks by the Taliban are up 47 percent over last year, and the casualty rate for Afghan soldiers and police has increased 40 percent. The yearly desertion rate of the Afghan Army is between 27 percent and 30 percent. Huge sections of the population have been turned into refugees, the country was described to the New York Times by one international law enforcement official as “the world’s first true narco state.” According to the World Bank, 36 percent of Afghans are at or below the poverty line, and 20 percent of Afghan children never reach the age of five.
Obama shrugs and giggles “That’s not surprising. They’ve been fighting there for a long time.” Here’s our part of it: The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 3,860 days. In the eleven years that American troops have been fighting in Afghanistan, 1,834 have been killed. 15,786 Americans have been wounded. 11,864 civilians have been killed. The war in Afghanistan has cost the United States $443 billion from 2001 through 2011, according to the Congressional Research Office.
If somehow any can be found with the ability to stomach Obama’s chaotic, hapless, and persistent failures in Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai has decided not to be counted in this number, and not to be part of the direct offense born in brag among G8 leaders last Tuesday.
Just one day prior, at the ceremony to complete the security handover, Karzai announced he was sending a team to talk to the Taliban. “Our high peace council will travel to Qatar to conduct peace talks with the Taliban.” Apparently, however, the U.S. president’s decision to snub and ignore Karzai in his giddy Berlin announcement, to violate international and diplomatic protocol, to violate all prior agreements with the government of Afghanistan, and even to directly violate the United States’ own preconditions for dialogue, did not sit well with Karzai.
In an embarrassment to the United States, and in a move that effectively undoes Obama’s excited rush to “dialogue,” Karzai announced immediately that he will refuse peace talks with the Taliban in the Qatar office unless only Afghans are involved and violence stops. According to the report, quoting from a statement issued by Karzai’s office, the president said his High Peace Council would “neither attend nor participate in the talks” until the process is “completely” in the hands of Afghans.
A key reason Karzai decided not to participate in the talks was that the announcement released by the Taliban used the group’s formal name, “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the very name under which the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from September 1996 until December 2001, when they were overthrown by the American-led invasion.
Shafiullah Nooristani, a member of the High Peace Council, explained that the use of the name “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” violated agreements Karzai’s government had made with the United States and caused diplomatic problems for Afghanistan.
“The agreement was that the office should open only — and only — for negotiations, not as a political entity like a parallel institution to the Afghan Embassy which is already there,” said Nooristan.
How is it even possible to miss the glaring affront represented by welcoming this “embassy”? Coughlin, though fully aware of difficulties attributable to what widely has come to be known as the “Karzai factor,” does not stick to that explanation in this instance. He states clearly, “on this occasion, Mr Karzai’s temper tantrum, and suspension of talks with the U.S. within hours of Obama’s announcement, appears to be fully justified.”
And while he was at it, not only did Karzai scuttle the disgraceful, self-promoting grandstanding of the U.S. president, he further announced his decision to suspend negotiations on a new U.S.-Afghan security deal that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in the country after the international combat mission officially ends in 2014.
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