As Petraeus exits, US interests in Afghanistan far from secured
Gen. David Petraeus is giving up command of the Afghanistan war to take charge of the CIA. Announcement of the shift comes during a bad week for NATO in Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus is leaving the field of battle.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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He's seen in some circles as having turned around the Iraq war, and was brought in to shore up the flagging NATO effort in Afghanistan last July. Now he is leaving to become chief of the CIA at a time when the theory of warfare he's put into practice in Afghanistan is coming under heavy strain from insurgents and an Afghanistan that grows ever more weary of foreign troops. The task his replacement will take up is looking as difficult as ever.
On the very afternoon that his departure for Washington was confirmed, horrifying scenes were unfolding in Kabul. There, eight US soldiers and one American contractor were gunned down by an Afghan Air Force officer in the military portion of the airport. The New York Times quoted an Afghan officer at the scene that other NATO soldiers leaped from second and third story windows to escape the killer.
That base is one of the most secure places in the country – yet US soldiers were literally forced to flee for their lives within it from one of their erstwhile allies. When I was in Afghanistan last summer, I went there to get my ISAF badge -- and had to wait outside the blast walls for an American private to come to me due to a "take no chances" approach to security there. But of course, there's no securing against betrayal by comrades you live and work with, as was amply demonstrated by Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan at Fort Hood last year.
Yet in Afghanistan, there are signs of betrayal within the Afghan military forces and police every day – sometimes of NATO forces, sometimes of their fellow citizens. These are the very forces that NATO is training, arming and paying. Nine days ago, a suicide bomber who belonged to the Afghan Army and was working with the Taliban infiltrated the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, his intended target apparently France's visiting Defense minister. The victims then were fellow Afghan soldiers. On April 16, five NATO and four Afghan soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in uniform on their base in Laghman Province, and the day before that, police chief Khan Muhammad Mujahed of Kandahar was killed by a suicide bomber in police uniform.