Six years after the world celebrated the defeat of Taliban forces, the U.S. military suffered deaths, encountered suicide bombings, and opium production hit record levels in Afghanistan. US officials insist things are looking up, but southern regions of Afghanistan are not under control of the government. Civilian deaths caused by NATO and American forces reached high levels causing many Afghans to turn away from supporting the opponents of terrorists. The Taliban basically employed guerrilla warfare tactics of ambushes and suicide bombings rather than engage in head on attacks. As Lt. Col. Dave Johnson noted, “The Taliban attack whom theyr perceive to be the most vulnerable, and in this case it’s the police. They don’t travel in large formations like the army does. That puts them in an arm of vulnerability.” More than 925 Afghan police died last year.
Afghanistan in 2007 witnessed the death of 6,500 people, including 110 US troops– the highest level of any year. About 4,500 militants were killed as were 41 British soldiers. Seth Jones, an an alyst with the Rand Corporation raised several issues about Afghanistan: “The thing that concerns me the most is the general perception in Afghanistan that the government is not capable of meeting the basic demands of its population. But, it’s involved in corruption–that it’s unable to deliver services in key rural areas and that it’s not able to protect its population, especially the police.”
A key question is: does the Bush administration have either a short or long term plan for success in Afghanistan? Does NATO have a plan on ways to most effectively utilize its forces in Afghanistan. A few months ago, several British diplomats raised the issue of how to cease antagonizing Afghan farmers who raise opium. They suggested purchasing the entire crop. It’s time for innovative strategies in Afghanistan. Most probably such changes must await the arrival of a new president.