What was the message behind extraordinary Afghanistan attack?
Earlier today, about 30 miles outside of Kabul, Taliban forces launched an extraordinary attack on a French patrol, killing 10 soldiers and injuring another 21. It lasted for hours and as many as 200 Taliban forces were involved. Clearly, it was well-coordinated.
It was the latest in a string of bad news coming out of Afghanistan these days. This summer has been the deadliest for NATO and U.S. troops since 2001. Indeed, more soldiers are dying in Afghanistan than Iraq.
Monday’s attack was the deadliest single attack in Afghanistan since 2001. Until Monday, the deadliest attack had been on July 13 when the same amount of Taliban soldiers attacked a U.S. patrol. Nine U.S. troops were killed in that attack.
In addition, it was the deadliest attack against French forces since 1983 when 58 paratroopers were killed by a suicide bomber in Lebanon. Before Monday, the French had lost 14 soldiers in Afghanistan since the end of 2001.
So why did it happen? There are two theories being considered here at the Pentagon. One is political and the other is strategic.
The first is that the Taliban was retaliating against the French for sending 700 more troops in Afghanistan under pressure from NATO and the Bush administration. French President Nicholas Sarkozy took a lot of criticism from his people in April, when the additional troops arrived. And today, some Frenchmen charged that their troops died for America, not France.
By attacking the troops, the Talbian sent a message to future NATO allies that their troops are not safe.
The second is that the Taliban is trying to rattle Kabul, psychologically. They are under no illusions that they can take the capital, the theory goes, but if they can keep launching these kind of attacks, residents will be paralyzed.
Either reason is troubling. And as the U.S. military debates sending more troops in Afghanistan, it begs the question: Can more troops stop these kind of well-coordinated attacks?