Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the US deficit
A series of Taliban assaults left at least 22 people dead in southern Afghanistan today, a reminder that as Congress looks for spending cuts, the US remains far from a 'mission accomplished' moment.
Afghanistan Ambassador Ryan Crocker has jumped from his breeze of a confirmation hearing in the US into the fat end of the fire this week. The new ambassador has arrived in a country reeling from a string of assassinations of government officials and worried about what the future may hold, as the US continues to contract its fighting presence across the country.Skip to next paragraph
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Yesterday, Kandahar's popular mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi was murdered by a Taliban suicide bomber while receiving petitioners. The dual US-Afghan national (he lived in America for decades) was exactly the sort of official the US, which harbors hopes of transforming Afghanistan's political culture, wanted to see more of. Tom Peter wrote yesterday that Mr. Hamidi, "an accountant for most of his life... had far more in common with Western politicians than he did with many of the warlords and powerbrokers in control of large parts of Afghanistan."
He also had enough steel to get things done in the Tombstone-like atmosphere of Kandahar. A Kandahari pharmacist told Tom that he once saw the son of a powerful local official park his car in a way that completely blocked a narrow road. The official's son brushed off all requests that he move his car, including from Hamidi, who happened upon the scene. Hamidi's response? He bashed in the man's rear-view mirror with his shoe. The message was received, the car soon moved.
That followed the murder earlier this month President Hamid Karzai's half brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, long the main powerbroker in Kandahar, the ancestral home of both the Karzai's and where the Taliban found its initial strength in the early 1990s. In April, Kandahar's police chief was killed by a suicide bomber and also earlier this month, Jan Mohammed Khan, a powerful warlord in Uruzgan and a key ally of President Karzai's, was killed in a suicide attack at his home in Kabul.
Mr. Crocker, dealing with the first of what's likely to be many crises on his watch, borrowed a page from the Iraq war public communications book (where Crocker served as ambassador from 2007-2009): The murders, he said, could in fact be a sign of the enemy's weakness.