Slipping into Chaos

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Slipping into Chaos


Byline: The Register-Guard

Last Wednesday was a typical day in Afghanistan. Three bombs exploded in Kabul, killing one bystander and wounding 47. In the southern provinces, U.S.-led coalition forces killed nearly three dozen suspected Taliban fighters, and a British soldier was killed on patrol.

While U.S. officials have long pointed to Afghanistan as a glowing success in the war on terror, the nation has been steadily sliding into a crevasse of chaos and carnage. For Oregonians, that's a matter of deep concern, since more than 950 National Guard troops from this state recently began a yearlong tour to train the Afghan army.

In the south, Taliban and al-Qaeda forces have regrouped five years after U.S. soldiers toppled the Taliban regime, and several thousand well-armed and trained fighters are attempting to regain power. Last month, an estimated 1,000 people died in fighting in southern provinces, and roadside bombings and rocket attacks against U.S. and NATO forces are increasing.

The tentacles of Kabul's central government have nearly been severed in the south, where appointment to a government post is tantamount to a death warrant. Warlords rule the countryside, often with the consent of the central government. The opium trade, once eliminated by the Taliban, is flourishing.

Now, the violence and instability of the south is spreading into Kabul, undermining progress in a city that until recently has been the most secure place in Afghanistan. Public sentiment is turning against the U.S. military, in part because of the growing list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed in military operations, the corruption of the U.S.-supported government of President Hamid Karzai and Afghans' historic resentment of occupying forces.

The outlook is not entirely bleak. Afghans have elected a president and a parliament and have approved a constitution. More than 4 million refugees have returned home after decades of war. Women have been elected to national office, and girls attend school. Foreign investors have begun underwriting ventures in Kabul, and new office buildings are under construction.

Yet, the prospects for peace and stability hang in the balance. Unless the United States and its allies intensify their nation-building efforts, Afghanistan's new government will surely collapse, with dire ramifications for the war on terrorism.

First, the United States and its allies must bring security and stability to Afghanistan's four southern provinces. …

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