Friday, July 01, 2005

The sound of no hands clapping

Afghan Progress in Danger of Unraveling

Afghanistan was held up as an example of U.S.-led nation-building just three months ago. But that optimism has succumbed to near-daily ambushes, bombings, execution-style killings and this week's downing of a U.S. military helicopter.

From U.S. and U.N. officials to Afghan villagers, fear is growing that this country may be at a seminal moment — with the barrage of violence in danger of overwhelming three years of state-building.

"After the presidential elections last year, everyone was optimistic that we were heading toward a stable, peaceful democracy. But it no longer seems that way," said Malalai Juya, a female candidate in September's upcoming elections. "Everyone is scared now. Security has been getting worse and worse by the day."

The resurgence of the Taliban insurgency could not have come at a worse time — with just 10 weeks remaining before key legislative elections that are the next step toward democracy after a generation of war.

Tuesday's downing of a special forces helicopter — and the loss of an elite military team still missing Friday — reinforced concerns that while American casualties here are far fewer than in Iraq, the rebellion may be fast becoming a mirror of the insurgency there.

Stability also is threatened by a rise in crime, such as gangs kidnapping foreigners in Kabul. Opium and heroin trade is booming and resentment is growing toward the presence of U.S. forces, which erupted into deadly riots in May.

One of the many aspects of Shrub's free ride has been the complete absence of the looming storm in Afghanistan from the headlines here at home. There was no reckoning for the way we short-sheeted the job there so that we could send all the troops to roust Saddam. Looks like that's about to change.

Can our military wage a two-clusterfuck campaign?


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