This past week we were treated to punchdrunk praises of our success in Afghanistan by NewsyDupe scribes from NatPo and TorStar's own Rosie DiManno. According to them we had the Talibs all but whipped and were standing by to hand over our virtual victory to our American replacements. Hogwash, pure hogwash.
A more reliable and reflective assessment of the deplorable state of Afghanistan comes from the International Crisis Group's top Afghanistan analyst, Kabul-based Candace Rondeaux:
Most Afghans understand ...that the fight will go on long after the last foreign troops leave and that plans for a transition to full Afghan control of security in 2014 are little more than a politically convenient fantasy.
...Insurgents have demonstrated a startling determination to expose the Afghan government's weaknesses ever since Afghan president Hamid Karzai announced plans in late March to begin transitioning security in the capital city and six other areas of the country to Afghan control by July of this year. Since March, at least 50 people have been killed and scores wounded in insurgent attacks in or close to four out of the seven areas slated for transition next month. The strike on the Intercontinental was a strategic blow; it occurred only hours before Afghan provincial governors were scheduled to gather in the capital for a conference on transition plans. The investigation into the attack on the hotel is still ongoing, but given the pattern of past attacks in the capital it is not at all unlikely the armed attackers were able to sneak their weapons past security checkpoints by greasing a few government palms along the way, or by wearing police uniforms, as has been reported by some outlets.
NATO officials can talk all they like about signs of progress but with only a couple of weeks left before Kabul is due to transition to Afghan control Karzai's government has never looked more vulnerable. The assault in the heart of the Afghan capital begs the question: is now really the right moment to conduct negotiations with the Taliban?
No one is more concerned about finding an answer to this question than ordinary Afghans. While the desire for an end to the conflict is genuine, the fear of a Taliban return to power is equally real and quite pervasive. There is a widespread perception that Karzai, in his desperate bid to maintain power, is preparing to sell out to militant pro-jihadi forces even as the country slides into freefall.
Moreover, how can anyone expect the Taliban to accede to government demands to respect the Afghan constitution when the president himself shows little regard for the rule of law?
...The forces behind this latest turn of events in Afghanistan are driven as much by Karzai's persistent attacks on the sanctity of democratic institutions as they are by an insatiable appetite among those in his inner circle for profits from an economy built entirely on war. Even as preparations for the security transition begin, Afghanistan's political and economic systems appear to be on the brink of implosion.
The Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and Haqqani Network fighters have gained momentum in Afghanistan's heartland, installing shadow governments and conducting aggressive assassination campaigns while co-opting provincial government officials also looking for their cut from the war economy. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have profited tremendously from corruption within Afghan security agencies, which has allowed the insurgency to infiltrate entire units of the police and army in central eastern provinces like Kabul, Ghazni and Laghman and to extract millions in protection payments from Afghan and international security contractors charged with security NATO supply convoys.
So, yes, Rosie, there is a Santa Claus. The Talibs aren't bothering our soldiers much these days but that's because they have other fish to fry. We're not the focus of their attention and it's even possible word got out that we're leaving. They've trained their sights elsewhere in places where they expect better bangs for their bucks. They can do that because they hold the initiative which, in this type of warfare, is what truly defines success.