Earlier today, insurgents in Kapisa province detonated a bomb, killing six people:
The blast in Kapisa province was the second deadly attack in less than two weeks, following on the heels of a suicide bombing that killed four French troops on June 9. That prompted France’s new president, Francois Hollande, to declare that the French withdrawal would begin next month…
Kapisa is on the latest list of Afghan provinces and towns where Afghan forces are meant to be taking over fighting duties from NATO troops. The transfer of security responsibilities is a key element of the Western exit strategy, and insurgents in the past made a point of stepping up attacks in the designated “transition” areas, seeking to raise doubts that Afghan police and soldiers will be able to keep order and fight off the Taliban.
France’s expedited timeline for withdrawal was also the subject of my column for PBS last week:
The early French withdrawal from Kapisa will create a security vacuum just outside of Kabul. This is no small matter: the “ring of steel” that surrounds Afghanistan’s capital has been broken so many times that few have faith in the capital’s safety anymore. Furthermore, many of those attacks are the work of the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group closely affiliated with the Taliban and headquartered in Pakistan. Several of those early attacks, before the influx of French troops, were planned and supported out of the Tagab Valley, in Kapisa Province. The French presence there had reduced the ability of militants in Kapisa to launch attacks into Kabul. When the French leave, the U.S. won’t have the troops to fill in the gap, leaving a big opportunity for militants north of Kabul to strike back.
There’s a lesson in there, somewhere, for U.S. policymakers. Ambition has its place in warfare, but only if it can be backed up by commitment. While the U.S. has certainly been ambitious in Afghanistan it has never really committed to the war or to its success – and that is why it has faced such disappointment and frustration. It is also why, in 18 months, whoever the next president is will be doing exactly what François Hollande is doing now: withdrawing and trying to move on.
I wish I could say this is a terrible surprise, but it really isn’t. Three years ago, when I was writing in this space from my deployment with the French military in Kapisa, we could all see much the same thing happening. It’s not surprising, but it is a deep, bitter disappointment. No one cared enough to try to set things right, and now it’s crumbling into disaster.