A dreadful war
The four United States soldiers killed by a bomb on Sunday in Afghanistan brought the number of US military deaths there since 2001 to 2,146. More than 200,000 Afghans have died in the war fought since the US invasion 12 years ago on Monday.
The war is less in the news these days as the operation is wound down ahead of the withdrawal of US-led Nato forces there next February and with Afghan troops now leading the fight against Taliban insurgents. But the security and political arrangements are not yet in place to take over from the US. There is no conclusion to the bilateral security treaty being negotiated to give the US a continuing military role as President Hamid Karzai prepares to stand down after his second term and over 20 candidates register for elections to replace him.
Nor has any appreciable progress been made in talks between Mr Karzai and/or the US and the Taliban to bring the war to an end through an agreed political settlement. Neither side is fully committed to such an outcome, the US because it fears the humiliation of concluding it, Karzai because his political career is nearly over and the Taliban because they scent a larger military and political victory after both these adversaries have departed. This failure to engage is a sad commentary on a dreadful war.
That old piece of strategic advice to imperial powers – “Don’t invade Afghanistan!” – was comprehensively disregarded by the US and its allies on this occasion, and seems destined to taunt whatever regime of internal and external control succeeds the present one.
It is irresponsible of President Barack Obama not to make a more determined effort to secure a political settlement ahead of next year’s withdrawal. A chaotic and even more bloody internal civil war for succession next year will only keep the invasion option open, perhaps by drawing in neighbouring Pakistan even more directly than before.