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NATO decides Afghan ministries too dangerous for its personnel

After what appears to be the latest murder of US personnel by Afghan security services, NATO pulled its people out of Afghan ministries.

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The simple fact is that after 10 years of war, hearts and minds have not been won. Legions of civilian and military advisers from Europe and the US, seeking to inculcate an outside political culture in the hearts of Afghans, have largely failed. The tinder of anger and humiliation is thick on the ground. And this is not just about Taliban supporters.

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In my one brief trip to Afghanistan over a year ago, I met plenty of Afghans with no love for the Taliban who spoke of their distaste for the foreign presence. Their culture is not our culture. They do not want it to be.

Of course, nothing like Gen. William George Keith Elphinstone's disastrous retreat from Kabul in January 1842, when a column of camp-followers, British officers and Indian soldiers numbering some 16,500 were harried by Afghan fighters for over a week before being massacred at Gandamak pass (only one man from the original column made it to safety), is in the offing. NATO troops are too well armed and equipped to be driven out of Kabul, or any other major bases in the country.

But now, just as 150 years ago, Afghans in general have little love for the foreigners in their midst. Given that, outbursts like those of the past week, while containable, can happen from time to time. NATO will try to put the best face on the situation, as it has been trying to do for years, but the US and its partners have much to consider in the weeks ahead.

President Obama is seeking to negotiate an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (who currently holds power thanks to a fraud-marred election) on the US role in the country beyond 2014, when a troop pullout is currently scheduled. So far, those talks have gone nowhere. In May, Mr. Obama will host a NATO meeting on Afghanistan in which he's expected to be more precise about the size and pace of troop reductions in the country. Obama doubled down on the Afghan war with a troop surge soon after he took office, though not as big or open-ended as generals had been pushing for.

The US president now has European allies tired of the war and grappling with economic crisis at home. With the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May, the US public's appetite for the Afghan war has also diminished. A CNN poll in October found domestic support for the war at its lowest point since it started in 2001, down to 34 percent. Over 1,900 US soldiers have now been killed in the Afghan war.

It bears repeating: The two latest US casualties were in the heart of the Afghan Interior ministry, killed by an Afghan whose gun and ammunition were paid for by the US taxpayer.

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