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Jun 27th, 2011

A Decade On, No Clear Answers in Afghanistan

More than 1,522 American service members have died as U.S. plans to end combat operations in 2014


Violence in Afghanistan continues following Obama speech (MSNBC TV, June 26, 2011) — A suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday comes on the heels of President Obama’s announcement of an American military drawdown in that country. Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey discusses the situation. (03:54)

By Patrick Quinn

June 26, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — For 10 years, ever since the towers fell, the United States has fought a war in a distant land — in hopes, it says, of protecting American interests and making the world safer from terrorism. Now, as President Barack Obama plans to end U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014, the question remains as muddy as ever:

What happened here?

There have been victories — and setbacks. More than 1,522 American service members have died [link added]. There has been talk of a more stable, safer Afghanistan and frequent, obvious evidence to the contrary [link added]. The country’s president and the United States share an uneasy relationship [link added], and it’s difficult to tell the story of the past decade in a single, concise statement. …

America’s chapter in Afghanistan’s struggle is drawing to a close. President Barack Obama has said he will withdraw [link added] a third of nearly 100,000 U.S. troops by next summer and end combat operations in 2014 — with or without even a semblance of a lasting success.

Much work remains unfinished even after almost a decade of war  [link added] and billions of dollars in aid [link added]. Although battered, the insurgents still control large swaths of the country, and it is nearly impossible to travel safety from the capital to the southern city of Kandahar. …

In announcing the timetable, Obama spoke of building a “partnership with the Afghan people that endures” long after the last American service member has gone home. His words were aimed at reassuring the Afghans that America would not abandon them.

That pledge was reminiscent of the Soviet assurances to their Afghan clients when they, like the British a century before, concluded that fighting in Afghanistan wasn’t worth the cost in blood and treasure and withdrew in 1989.

Moscow left behind a friendly government and a well-equipped Afghan army. Three years later, that government collapsed, the army fell apart and the country was again engulfed in war. …

Even with troop reductions, the United States is facing huge expenses if it sticks by Obama’s plan. Building and funding a 300,000-member Afghan army and police will cost an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion a year even after 2014. The U.S. already paid $22 billion in 2010 and 2011 to train and equip the Afghans.

The dilemma is that without such an investment, Afghanistan could again slip into civil war as it did when the Soviets left 22 years ago. Preventing that will require not only a strong security force but a power-sharing agreement among the numerous ethnic groups, including the Pashtuns from whom the Taliban draw their strength. …

With such a complex ethnic and political landscape, few believe Afghanistan will enjoy peace anytime soon.

Optimists hope the level of violence can be reduced and the fighting limited to small areas around the country. …

Pessimists, including many Afghans, fear that once the foreign troops leave, the country will descend into a new civil war. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

A U.S. armored military vehicle is parked near a building that was attacked by Taliban fighters in Kandahar on May 8, 2011. Afghan security forces clashed with militants in Kandahar for a second day after the Taliban unleashed a major assault on government buildings in the southern city. (Photo credit: Allauddin Khan / AP)

Obama Hell-Bent on Afghanistan Pull-Out (June 25, 2011)

Civilian Carnage in Afghanistan (June 14, 2011)

Soldiers Pose with Afghan Corpse (March 21, 2011)

Afghanistan ‘Tom and Jerry’ War (Jan. 4, 2011)

One American Dies Every 18 Hours in Afghanistan (Jan. 1, 2011)

‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010)

Afghanistan Worn-Out Welcome (Nov. 21, 2010)

Afghan War Set to Drag On (Nov. 17, 2010)

Afghanistan War Cost Too High (Nov. 13, 2010)

10th Year of War in Afghanistan (Oct. 7, 2010)

Afghan War Deadlier Than Ever (July 31, 2010)


6/28/2011 Update

Explosions, Gunfire Rock Kabul Hotel

At least three suicide bombers enter Inter-Continental, NBC News reports


Suicide bombers strike Kabul hotel (MSNBC TV, June 28, 2011) — At least three suicide bombers strike in a coordinated attack inside the Inter-Continental hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. (00:43)

The Associated Press and
June 28, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least three suicide bombers blew themselves up late Tuesday inside a Western-style hotel in Afghanistan’s capital, police told NBC News. A guest said he heard gunfire echoing throughout the building.

Reporters at the scene heard bursts of gunfire and saw shooting from the roof of the five-story Inter-Continental hotel that sits on a hill overlooking the city. Police ordered bystanders to lie on the ground for safety. There was no immediate word on casualties in the rare, nighttime attack in the city.

The attack began when a suicide vehicle blew up the front gate of the hotel, NBC News reported. Then, six suicide bombers entered the restaurant and three exploded their bombs.

A firefight was ongoing, Afghan police told NBC News. Three of the suicide bombers reportedly have not been found. Other reports indicate more suicide bombers may be alive.

Police told NBC News that no known Westerners were in the hotel at the time; the occupants were mainly Afghan governors from various provinces in town for a government meeting on Wednesday.There was also wedding party in the hotel at the time. …

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press.

The Inter-Continental — known widely as the “Inter-Con” — was once part of an international chain. But when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the hotel, was left to fend for itself.

The hotel, used by Western journalists during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, has been targeted before. On Nov. 23, 2003, a rocket exploded nearby, shattering windows but causing no casualties. …

Other hotels in the capital have also been targeted. In January 2008, militants stormed the capital’s most popular luxury hotel, the Serena, hunting down Westerners who cowered in a gym during a coordinated assault that killed eight people. An American, a Norwegian journalist and a Philippine woman were among the dead.

Attacks in the Afghan capital have been relatively rare, although violence has increased since the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid in Pakistan [link added] and the start of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive [link added].

On June 18, insurgents wearing Afghan army uniforms stormed a police station near the presidential palace and opened fire on officers, killing nine.

Late last month, a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan police uniform infiltrated the main Afghan military hospital, killing six medical students. A month before that, a suicide attacker in an army uniform sneaked past security at the Afghan Defense Ministry, killing three people. …

Full story


Real-time updates on the attack from

Image: A tracer bullet is shot during an attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel
A tracer bullet [more likely a rocket] is fired during an attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel. (Photo credit: Massoud Hossaini / AFP — Getty Images)


6/30/2011 Update

Attack at Kabul hotel deflates security hopes in Afghanistan (New York Times, June 29, 2011) – Women and children screamed. Chairs tipped backward. Food slid onto the lawn as people started to run. Mr. Amini said he saw police officers running, too, tightly gripping their own AK-47s as they raced away from the gunmen. “I said, ‘Why don’t you shoot? Shoot!’ ” he recalled. “But they just said, ‘Get away from them.’ And we all ran together.” … [For] the hotel guests, many of whom jumped over the perimeter walls, plunged into irrigation ditches or cowered in closets to escape the attackers, the police response was not only slow, but also cowardly. Several witnesses said police officers ran away or refused to shoot. … “Forty-five countries have troops here, but security is still fragile — you cannot serve dinner in one of the largest and most secure restaurants in Kabul,” [Nazir Amini] said. “Now we are hearing about a security transition to Afghan forces,” he added. “If they give the security responsibility to the current government at 10:00 a.m., the government will collapse around 12 noon. … Full story


Related reports on this site

Taliban Strikes in Heart of Kabul (Feb. 26, 2010)

Taliban Siege Rattles Kabul (Jan. 19, 2010)

Escalating Afghanistan Violence (Nov. 20, 2009)

Afghan War Closes in on Kabul (Oct. 28, 2009)

Mumbai-Like Strike in Kabul (Feb. 12, 2009)


10/4/2012 Update

U.S. War on Afghanistan Militants Will Not Succeed, President Hamid Karzai Says


In Afghanistan, a growing number of insider attacks (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 3, 2012) — Joint US-Afghan operations are becoming more common, and so are the risks. NBC’s Lester Holt reports. (03:06)

October 4, 2012

KABUL — Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that the U.S.-led war on militancy would “not be successful,” and accused Western media of waging “psychological warfare” on his country [by suggesting it would fall apart after the NATO withdrawal and that the Taliban would likely return to power].

The outgoing leader said U.S. efforts to defeat the Taliban would fail “from Afghanistan’s view” because it was being fought in Afghan villages, rather than against insurgents based in neighboring countries — an apparent allusion to Pakistan. …

Full story


2/25/2013 Update

Afghan President Orders U.S. Forces Out of Key Province


Afghan president orders U.S. forces out of Wardak province (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 24, 2013) — NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski joins Lester Holt to discuss the latest on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s order that U.S. forces be removed from Wardak province over allegations of torture and disappearances. (01:26)

By Hasani Gittens

February 24, 2013

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has ordered that all U.S. special forces must leave Wardak province, just west of Kabul, within two weeks — citing allegations of disappearances and torture.

In a statement Sunday, a spokesman for Karzai said, “after a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.”

Karzai’s office cited a “recent example” in which nine people allegedly “disappeared” and a separate incident where a student was taken from his home in the middle of the night and whose tortured body was found two days later under a bridge with his throat cut.

U.S. defense officials strongly deny that military personnel condoned, or were involved in, any kidnappings, torture or murders of Afghan civilians or suspects. …

Military officials told NBC News that Karzai’s order came as a total surprise. The province is one of the hottest combat zones in Afghanistan and is a strategically important area because it is seen as the gateway the Taliban uses to carry out attacks in Kabul, the war-torn nation’s capital. …

In their statement, the Afghan government noted that “Americans reject having conducted any such operation,” but also noted “that such actions have caused local public resentment and hatred.”

President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address earlier this month that 34,000 American troops — about half of the total U.S. force in Afghanistan — will leave the country by the end of this year.

Full story


3/5/2013 Update

Afghanistan Following 11 Years of U.S. Combat: ‘Not Much Different’

Traffic moves through the old city in November, 2012, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images)

By Mike Taibbi

March 4, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — I wondered, approaching Kabul over the snow-shrouded Hindu Kush mountains, what the story of the moment would be in the teeming city below.

It had been six years since I’d last visited Afghanistan’s capital, a short visit then that included an interview with President Hamid Karzai as part of the last of six long reporting assignments since 9/11 — that one stretching from Paktika and Gardez in the southeast to Herat in the west.

More than 11 years had passed since my first Afghan assignment, over the Kyber Pass from Pakistan and then into Jalalabad days after the Taliban had fled; the arc of America’s longest war.

“Not much different,” offered my seatmate, a senior NATO official from one of the 40 countries remaining in the coalition that has alternately steered or suffered through Afghanistan’s bloody march toward stand-alone status as a reconstituted nation.

“You’ll see some new construction under way in the city, but on the surface it’ll be little changed from what you saw before.”

Driving to our quarters, I found myself playing an old game: peering at the cars huffing and puffing along the city’s crowded streets, I counted the number of women drivers.  And got the same answer I’d counted on most days, 11 years ago.

Zero. …

Full story


4/4/2013 Update

54 Killed, 90 Wounded in Attack on Afghan Compound


Over 50 killed in Afghan compound attack (, April 3, 2013) — More than 50 people were killed in a militant attack on a government compound in western Afghanistan.’s Ron Allen reports. (00:44)

By John Newland
Staff Writer

April 3, 2013

At least 54 people were killed and 90 others wounded Wednesday in an insurgent attack on a government compound in western Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters were facing trial, local officials said.

Nine insurgents with explosives strapped to their bodies stormed the compound in Farah province, bordering Iran, Reuters reported. Explosions were followed by protracted gun battles.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Among the dead were 35 civilians, 10 members of the Afghan Security Forces and the nine suicide attackers, Mohammad Akram Khpalwalk, governor of Farah province, said.

Most of the 90 to 95 people wounded were civilians, said Dr. Abdul Jabaar, the head of the hospital where victims were taken.

The attack was the deadliest single assault in the country since 2011. …

Full story


6/26/2013 Update

Militants in Brazen Firefight Inside Fortified Afghan Zone


Taliban attack Afghan presidential palace (NBC “Today,” June 26, 2013) — Using fake badges to get into the presidential compound in Afghanistan, a heavily fortified area that includes the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters, the Taliban has launched a surprise attack. NBC’s Duncan Golestani reports. (01:39)

By Duncan Golestani, Sohel Uddin and Akbar Shinwari

June 25, 2013

KABUL — Insurgents launched a dramatic attack Tuesday inside a heavily-guarded part of the Afghan capital Kabul that contains the presidential palace, U.S. Embassy and headquarters for the NATO-led coalition forces.

The resulting firefight sent journalists waiting to attend a press conference with President Hamid Karzai scurrying for cover, along with a young child.

U.S. officials said that they believed five Afghans had been killed in the fighting. No American personnel were killed or injured.

The officials said the insurgents were thought to be from the Haqqani network, rather than the Taliban, despite the latter claiming responsibility for the attack.

The area is home to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and an annex of the U.S. Embassy at the old Ariana Hotel. The Central Intelligence Agency also has a base there. …

The early-morning assault, which rocked the center of the Afghan capital with explosions and gunfire, took place exactly a week after the U.S.-led coalition handed control of security to local forces. …

Reporters were gathered at the palace awaiting a news conference with Karzai when insurgents began their assault on the building’s east gate shortly after 6:30 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Monday ET).

Gunfire started about 100 yards away from the journalists in what is supposed to be the most secure part of Kabul. Reporters had passed through four checkpoints to get to the area. …

Full story


1/20/2014 Update

Three Americans Killed in Afghan Restaurant Attack Were Working Toward ‘A Safer World for All’

Afghan security forces personnel investigate the site of the Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 suicide attack and shooting, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Rahmat Gul / AP)

By Erik Ortiz

January 20, 2014

Three Americans killed in a brutal commando-style attack on a popular Kabul restaurant were being remembered Sunday as innocent civilians helping Afghanistan build a better future.

Two of the victims — Alexis Kamerman and Alexandros Petersen — were educators working for the American University of Afghanistan, while the third, Basra Hassan, was a UNICEF nutrition specialist.

Activists on Sunday laid flowers and signs reading, “Peace Is What We Want” and “We Stand Against Terrorism,” at the site of the blast.

The Friday night violence unleashed by a Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen is the deadliest on Western civilians since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001, claiming 21 lives, including 13 foreigners, the U.S. Embassy said. …

The bloodshed occurred around 7:30 p.m. local time when the suicide bomber blew himself up near the entrance of the Lebanese restaurant La Taverna du Liban in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave. Gunmen stormed in, spraying diners with bullets.

Sporadic bursts of gunfire were heard over the next hour, and police ended up fatally shooting the two gunmen, Reuters reported.

Aside from the three Americans killed, Britain and Canada confirmed they each lost two nationals, while Denmark said one of its citizens also died.

The Taliban said the assault was in retaliation for a NATO-led airstrike that claimed civilian lives north of Kabul last week.

NATO said two civilians were killed in that attack, which was targeting Taliban insurgents. …

Full story


2/22/2014 Update

Facing No-Win Legacy in Afghanistan

The architects of the war face a one-sided battle with history. (Photo credit: AP)

By Philip Ewing Logo - Click to return to home page
February 18, 2014

As the war in Afghanistan winds to a close, the architects of the campaign face a decidedly one-sided battle with history.

At the moment, they’re losing and losing badly, as Washington is plumbing new depths of pessimism about the outlook for the nation that President George W. Bush and his team once vowed to transform.

There’s no talk of “victory,” or how the U.S. should spend its share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, or how to use the peace dividend from a world made safe from Al Qaeda. Instead, the discussion has boiled down to a debate over whether the future will bring a quick implosion or a slow-motion collapse — and whose fault it would be.

Even former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, who helped set the war into motion in the Bush administration, acknowledged that today’s reality has not matched some of Washington’s past aspirations for what it could accomplish in Afghanistan. …

But he defended the original need for the invasion, which he said had accomplished its aim of destroying the government that harbored Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda fighters. And he said not to lose sight of the progress he said Afghanistan has made since then. …

He also conceded, “It has a lot of problems. … I don’t know if we’ll be able to preserve what we created there in the way of national security, the police and the military, after we leave.” …

National security officials and members of Congress are furious that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai set free a cadre of insurgents who American commanders say have killed U.S. troops and Afghan civilians. And that’s only Karzai’s latest thumb in the eye, following reported false claims about American airstrikes and his refusal to sign the bilateral security agreement he negotiated with the Obama administration. …

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appreciates the political difficulties involved with Afghanistan in an election year, says Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. All he can do is remind people that this remains a long game. …

U.S. spy agencies have already issued a bleak outlook for the conflict after America’s troops come home. Their classified National Intelligence Estimate even includes an annex drawing parallels with the withdrawal of the Soviet Union after its disastrous 1980 invasion … An end to assistance from Moscow helped create the conflict and instability that enabled the Taliban to come to power and eventually harbor Al Qaeda. …

Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — June 27, 2010

Iran Claims Israel Plans Attack on Nuclear Sites

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the centrifuges at Iran’s underground complex at Natanz, a target of an expanded American covert program. (Photo credit: Office of the Iranian President via The New York Times)

One year ago today, I reported allegations by Iran that Saudi Arabia was allowing Israel to use its territory in preparation for attacking Iran nuclear sites.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — June 27, 2009

Bachmann’s Census Paranoia

Two years ago today, on June 27, 2009, I provided a compilation of notable reports and opinions regarding U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she would refuse to complete the 2010 U.S. Census beyond reporting the number of members in her household.

7 Responses to “No Way Forward in Afghanistan”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » NATO Returns Fire in Kabul Siege Says:

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  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Record Number of U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan Says:

    […] No Way Forward in Afghanistan (June 27, 2011) […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Horrific Massacre by Deranged American Soldier in Afghanistan Says:

    […] No Way Forward in Afghanistan (June 27, 2011) […]

  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan War ‘Not Worth Fighting’ Says:

    […] No Way Forward in Afghanistan (June 27, 2011) […]

  6. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » Military Deaths in Afghanistan Update — August 2012 Says:

    […] Over time, Obama’s administration has grown weary of trying to tackle Afghanistan’s seemingly intractable problems of poverty and corruption. The American people have grown weary too. […]

  7. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » ‘No One Really Cares’ — 2,000 U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan Says:

    […] Over time, the Obama administration has grown weary of trying to tackle Afghanistan’s seemingly intractable problems of poverty and corruption. The American people have grown weary too. […]

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