The decision by U.S. military officials to suspend most joint operations with Afghan troops and police is a telling milestone of just how far things have deteriorated in Afghanistan.
The decision may accelerate our country’s withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan which had been slated for the end of 2014.
We hope it does.
The move comes after four American soldiers were killed by Afghan police on Sunday. So far this year, 51 American or NATO troops have been murdered by their Afghan counterparts.
The so-called insider attacks are escalating. Officials say the phenomenon of Afghans opening fire on Americans and other foreign troops started in 2007. Since then, the attacks have claimed 109 lives.
Military officials are bracing for more violence in the wake of the weeklong protests across the Arab world over an anti-Islam film. On Tuesday, Afghan militants claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a minivan carrying foreign workers that killed 12 people. They said it was revenge for the film.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday the United States is concerned about the impact insider attacks are having on its forces in Afghanistan. Understandably, the killings are causing friction between U.S. and Afghan troops and undermining trust.
If ending joint operations with the Afghans helps protect our troops during these extremely volatile times then we applaud the effort even if it is only temporary.
What it means for the future of our involvement in Afghanistan isn’t clear, but we hope it signals the beginning of the end of our efforts to train the Afghans to take custody of the security for their country. Unfortunately, that strategy was probably wishful thinking.
It is undeniable that some gains have been made in the area. U.S. forces have worked tirelessly and fought bravely to provide some sense of peace and order to the war-raveged country. Osama bin Ladin is dead. We have, for the most part, eliminated Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Some have argued that if we leave before Afghan security forces are trained, the country would quickly dissolve into chaos and Islamic terrorists would return.
But when the soldiers you are training are turning their guns on you with increased frequency, something is seriously wrong.
The reality is that the majority of Afghans want us to leave their country. There is deep resentment of us despite all the good we have done for the Afghan people.
Another reality, as pointed out by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, is that four years into the Obama era, America is as disliked today in much of the Arab world as it ever was under George W. Bush. That is evident in the relationship between U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
That isn’t going to change with whomever is elected in November. It’s hard to imagine what can be done to reverse this tide.
The tense divisions between the Islamic world and the West are vast and growing. That is the broad story. Afghanistan is just a chapter in that story.
But it is time to turn the page and bring our troops home.