World View: Nine Journalists Killed by Suicide Bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan

Thousands attend memorial for slain Afghan photographer
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Nine journalists killed by suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan
  • The Taliban announces the Spring fighting season, codename Al Khandaq
  • Analysts guess at why Afghanistan’s security situation keeps deteriorating

Nine journalists killed by suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan

Security forces run from the second coordinated suicide attack bombing in Kabul on Monday (AP)
Security forces run from the second coordinated suicide attack bombing in Kabul on Monday (AP)

Two coordinated suicide bombings on Monday in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, killed at least 26 people, including nine journalists, who were apparently targeted. The first suicide bomber was on a motorbike and exploded his device near Afghan intelligence headquarters in Kabul. After the initial suicide bombings, journalists arrived to report on it and were targeted by a second suicide bomber.

There were other terror attacks in cities across Afghanistan on Monday, including a car bombing in Kandahar province that killed eight Romanian soldiers, as well as multiple Afghan police officers and civilians.

Last Sunday, a massive terror attack in Kabul killed 60 people as they waited in a voter registration center, in a region of the city inhabited by members of the mainly Shia ethnic Hazara community, whom the Taliban has frequently targeted. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Reuters and Business Insider

The Taliban announces the Spring fighting season, codename Al Khandaq

This new series of attacks just a few days after the Taliban announced its 2018 fighting season, codenamed “Al Khandaq.” According to the Taliban announcement:

The planning and strategy of the Al Khandaq Jihadi operations are organized by the expert and proficient skilled cadre of the Military Commission of the Islamic Emirate which is based on guerilla, offensive, infiltrated and various other new and intricate tactics against the new war strategy of the enemy, mainly focusing on crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters.

Besides sustaining the ongoing illegitimate occupation, the newly adopted war strategy of Trump has been ruthlessly implemented in the villages and rural areas against our oppressed Afghan people for the past nine months. Thousands of additional foreign forces are being deployed inside Afghanistan and they are supplied with new devastating weapons and vast military authorities.

The Taliban statement dismissed efforts at bringing about peace negotiations as “deceptive efforts” launched by the “ineffectual and corrupt officials of the puppet regime inside and outside the country are nothing but a conspiracy orchestrated by the foreign occupiers for enervating.” Daily Times (Pakistan)

Analysts guess at why Afghanistan’s security situation keeps deteriorating

Every time I read an article by an analyst or journalist trying to explain why the security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating for years, it is pretty clear that they do not even know the most basic facts about the country. I have been explaining for years why any sort of “victory” in Afghanistan is impossible, and the reasons I gave years ago are still true today. I will repeat them below, but first, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that the media are providing.

Axios writer Michael Kugelman gives three reasons:

  • Intensified U.S. military pressure. According to Klugman, increased pressure by the U.S. military is driving the Taliban to terror attacks in the cities. So is he saying that if there were less U.S. military pressure, then there would be fewer terror attacks? The security situation has been deteriorating rapidly since the withdrawal of U.S. troops began in 2014.
  • The Taliban is a national insurgency determined to weaken if not overthrow the Afghan state. This has been true for 15 years, but it doesn’t explain what’s different now.
  • The Taliban and ISIS are staging terror attacks because they’re easy to pull off. By this reasoning, there should be terror attacks in almost every country in the world.

Allison Jackson, AFP’s Kabul Bureau chief, gave her reasons in an interview on Monday on RFI. Jackson was asked whether the security situation has deteriorated (my transcription):

Absolutely. I don’t know anyone who would say otherwise. I’ve only been here 8 months, but everyone I speak to says since 2014 the security situation has deteriorated significantly, and now it’s the worst it’s ever been, and there are a number of reasons for that.

Nato ended its combat mission at the end of 2014. Since then, the Taliban has been resurgent, and is taking back a lot of the territory that they had lost while the Nato combat troops were on the ground, and the US presence is obviously much more diminished in comparison to what it was pre-2014.

And Islamic State would have been merged in Afghanistan in 2014 2015, and they claimed their first major attack in 2016, in the summer of 2016, with an attack on Shias, and since then have launched more than a dozen attacks in Kabul alone.

They’ve come under significant pressure. The Taliban has also come under significant pressure, following Donald Trump’s new strategy in August, and that announcement basically gave the US air force and special forces much more leeway to go after the Taliban, IS, other militant groups. I think what these sorts of attacks show is that even in the heart of Kabul, ordinary Afghans are extremely vulnerable, the government is not able to secure the capital city. Resolute Support, which is the name of Nato’s mission here, has said that protecting Kabul is a priority, but they’ve also admitted that it’s very difficult to protect a city that is so porous as Kabul.

Jackson’s entire explanation is that the security situation has worsened because of the withdrawal of most NATO forces in 2014. That makes sense, but it is not particularly useful because it does not explain why NATO forces are needed in the first place. There are dozens of countries where no NATO troops are not deployed. Why does Afghanistan have terror attacks when those countries do not?

Jackson has been Kabul bureau chief for eight months. During that eight months, she might have learned something about the shifting ethnic and generational pressures that are bringing about these Taliban terror attacks.

As I’ve explained many times, Afghanistan’s last generational crisis war was the extremely bloody Afghan crisis civil war, 1991-96, which mostly pitted the ethnic Pashtuns, who are Sunni Muslims and later formed the Taliban, versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. Now, twenty years later, Afghanistan is in a generational Awakening era, and a new young generation of Pashtuns is coming of age, raised on stories their parents told them about the atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance, and they are looking for revenge.

But you do not have to know anything about generational history to understand what is going on. You just have to understand that there was an extremely bloody, violent civil war in 1991-96, pitting the Pashtuns versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. And you have to know that the Taliban are Pashtuns, and that young Pashtuns are looking for revenge for atrocities committed in the 1990s, and that NATO troops are completely irrelevant.

I have written in the past, I believe that this dynamic is understood by the NATO military, and by the U.S. administration, and they understand that this war cannot be won, but they have a larger purpose in mind. As war with China and Pakistan approaches, President Trump wants to keep American troops active in Afghanistan and to continue to maintain several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. Under these circumstances, having troops in Afghanistan is what matters, whether the Taliban are defeated or not. Axios and ABC News

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Afghanistan, Kabul, Taliban, Spring fighting season, Al Khandaq, Axios, Michael Kugelman, Amy Jackson, Pashtuns, Taliban, Northern Alliance, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Nato, Resolute Support, Bagram, Kandahar International Airport
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