Tough times ahead for Afghanistan
It was the deadliest bombing in the capital of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001--and the latest sign of a deteriorating security situation in the country that, along with the Pakistan tribal areas on its border, many consider to be the front line in the struggle against terrorism.
Last month was the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- 28 died there -- since American personnel entered the country in October 2001. President Bush last week announced he plans to send more troops there, and the Pentagon announced that 2,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit would have their current deployment in-country extended by 30 days.
The respected military analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies today released a briefing on Afghanistan (here's the PDF file link) that includes some charts, like the one above, that really give one pause. They show an up-tick in IED (Improvised Explosive Device) incidents, suicide bombings, and yes, U.S. casualties. One slide, based on U.N. data, shows expanding areas deemed to be "Extreme Risk/Hostile Environment." Those areas now make up a third of the country.
Cordesman's conclusions are that the conflict in Afghanistan is "armed nation-building, not counterinsurgency"; that it can't be won in Afghanistan alone, but is a regional struggle; and that the war of attrition can last 15 years or more. The enemy will win, he writes, if it can outlast NATO and the Afghan government.