Sunday, November 20, 2011

More Gov't Support? More Privatized "Security"?

   This month, Mr. Karzai called a loya jirga, the traditional grand council of Afghan elders and leaders, in an attempt to gain popular support for a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 delegates supported Mr. Karzai’s strategic vision for an American presence, though the conditions he proposed — including an end to house searches and night raids by American forces and an insistence that the Afghan government be in charge of all detainees — are unlikely to be acceptable to American officials. The second issue debated by the jirga, how to restart peace talks with the Taliban, was inconclusive.

   The months that preceded the loya jirga were notable for their violence. Aug. 6, 2011, was the deadliest day for American forces in the nearly decade-long war: insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter, killing 30 Americans, including some Navy Seal commandos from the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, as well as 8 Afghans.

   In August a series of attacks by insurgents killed numerous civilians, but for the most part failed against military targets. In Kabul, on Aug. 19, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the British Council, a British government agency promoting education, culture and the arts. Suicide bombers stepped up attacks in southern Afghanistan in advance of the end of Ramadan. But though Afghan security forces were the intended targets, civilians took the biggest toll.

   On Sept. 13, insurgents launched a complex assault against the American Embassy and the nearby NATO headquarters, pelting the heavily guarded compounds with rockets in an attack that raised new questions about the security of Afghanistan’s capital and the Westerners working there.

   A week later, an unidentified attacker killed the Burhanuddi Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a former president of the country whose main responsibility was negotiating a political end to the war with the Taliban. The attack was a serious blow to any notion of reconciliation with the Taliban.