The northern Aghan city of Kunduz was rocked by a suicide bombing that killed 36 people today. The Taliban bomber targeted a crowd outside a military recruiting center. Among the dead were five children, mostly shoeshine boys. This latest bombing follows other attacks on and killings of government officials in Kunduz in recent weeks; NATO forces have concentrated on southern provinces of late, leaving northern cities like Kunduz relatively open to Taliban attacks. A Taliban source for The New York Times revealed that the group’s tactics have recently shifted from organized ambushes to suicide bombing. The source predicted further attacks after the Afghan New Year beginning in March.
This New York Times article details work by the Taliban to create government in the midst of the American military, the military’s effort to understand the inner workings of the Taliban, and the fighting between the two sides. The article focuses on one remote district, where the Taliban is actually collecting taxes and administering a small level of governance. The military continues to find evidence of the Taliban’s activities, for example an underground station used to treat fighters wounded in battle. But it is not amounting to a victory, as the article notes that only three people in one area defied the Taliban’s order to abstain from voting. Fortunately casualty numbers are low for the American side. The article also addresses the matters of spies and of guns provided by the Pentagon to Afghan police ending up in the hands of the Taliban.
BBC News is reporting on a statement made by Afghan Minister of Education Farooq Wardak, that the Taliban have agreed to end their opposition to the education of females. It is reported that agreements have been made at the local level across the country to allow girls and female teachers to return to schools. Female members of Parliament are skeptical of the announcement. It can only be hoped that this skepticism will be proven false and that Afghanistan is taking a step in the right direction.
This New York Times article offers details on a suicide bomb attack, delivered by a van packed with explosives, whose explosion was reported to be audible as far as eight miles away. Currently six Americans are reported dead, but other troops with injuries are not expected to be life threatening. The article also reports:
American fatalities in Afghanistan have risen steadily for five years, with 479 American soldiers killed so far in 2010, according to icasualties.org, an independent Web site that compiles battlefield data. That is more than three times the 155 American casualties in 2008.
I came across this op-ed in the Guardian today (for those not familiar – it’s a liberal British newspaper). The columnist, Simon Tisdall, argues:
Pakistan was already under the American hammer before the WikiLeaks crisis blew. But leaked US diplomatic cables published by the Guardian show the extraordinary extent to which Pakistan is in danger of becoming a mere satrapy of imperial Washington.
I tend to disagree with his analysis. I don’t believe Pakistan is a mere puppet of America’s. On the contrary, I feel that a good amount of Americans are frustrated precisely because Pakistan won’t position itself under the American thumb, so to speak. Americans haven’t been successful in convincing the Pakistani military to pursue the Haqqani network of terrorists more vigorously and to date I believe the CIA hasn’t been granted permission to operate drones in and around the city of Quetta, the supposed base of operations of the Taliban Shura and Mullah Omar. Other exmaples come to mind too. In all of this I’m not advocating that Pakistan merely fall in line with whatever the United States deems expedient. I just feel the author does a kind of hit and run job on American foreign policy that’s superficial at best and dishonest at worst.
So it looks like the member of the Taliban NATO and Afghan officials were talking to in secret peace negotiations a month ago isn’t the man they thought he was. It turns out it was merely an imposter, a man posing as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, a very very senior militant in the Taliban’s ranks. Looks like we’re back to square one. Oh yeah, but the guy was still paid a bunch of money for his fine efforts. Fool me once, shame on…er…us?