Monday, January 06, 2014

Afghanistan and beyond: US foreign policy challenges in 2014 -- ISTANBUL-- A rocket exploded in the jagged, rocky hills just outside the American outpost at Torkham Gate, the gap in the mountains of the historic Khybar Pass that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. It was a bad shot. Rockets fired by the Taliban generally aren’t guided. -- Soldiers rushed to a shelter when the rocket detonated, but didn’t launch a mission to chase down the militants who’d fired at the base. They didn’t scour the Khybar Pass. They didn’t kick down doors in the nearby villages, or use metal detectors in Afghan homes and on suspected militants to find hidden weapons. American soldiers have been doing all these things in Afghanistan for years. But as we saw during this incident on Thanksgiving, things have changed. -- Technically, American troops in Afghanistan are trainers now. They’re supposed to advise and assist the Afghan security forces. For the Taliban, it’s quite a change. Now, they fight U.S. troops who generally don’t fight back. -- This year — 2014 — will be critical for the future of both Afghanistan and America’s longest war. U.S. forces will be entering into a strange limbo-period as they scale down from about 50 thousand in Afghanistan to a residual force of a few thousand. There may end up being no residual force at all if Washington and Kabul fail to agree to a bilateral security agreement. -- And it’s anyone’s guess how this transition will go. Afghanistan could return to civil war as it did when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. U.S. troops could become targets as they drawdown and increasingly have to fight a hardened adversary by remote control. -- Sitting in that bunker over Thanksgiving, I wondered what would have happened if that rocket had exploded in the center of the base. What if a few dozen American soldiers had been killed? What would they have died for? Who are they fighting now, and why, and how? Who wants to be the last soldier to die in a war where Americans are not supposed to be fighting, but where the enemy is still fighting them? -- The U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan will be tested in 2014, but this won’t be only challenge to U.S. foreign policy. Not even close. - More, NBC News, at:


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