Afghanistan yesterday marked 10 years since the start of the US-led war against the Taliban, with security tight after a string of bold insurgent attacks that have diminished hopes for an enduring peace.
The anniversary will be marked in quiet fashion, with little to commemorate the long years of conflict that have cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US dollars.
On the frontlines, it is likely to be business as usual for the 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including 100,000 from the US, as they continue to battle the Taliban-led insurgency.
For many Afghans, the anniversary will be a time for reflection on what the war has meant for their country and the implications of the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
“I spent a year in the city of Kabul during the Taliban regime and they made life difficult as they banned everything. We were forced to flee the country and live in Pakistan,” said Abdul Saboor, a 30-year-old cook in Kabul. “I was very pleased when finally the dark era of the Taliban ended in our country.”
However, the anniversary will also heighten discontent over the long conflict that has left Afghanistan with a corrupt government, a widely criticized Western troop presence and only dim prospects for peace.
Street vendor Khan Agha, 30, highlighted public anger over civilian casualties and supported calls for foreign troops to leave.
“Since the Americans and their allies came to Afghanistan, our security has deteriorated and they have also been involved in the killings of innocent Afghan civilians,” he said.
Security is being stepped up in the capital after a string of major attacks, including the assassination of peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, which has thrown government strategy for talking peace with the Taliban into turmoil.
“There will be more security, more checks. Police will be on high alert,” a senior Afghan government official said. “There will be some preparations like more security and more checks.”
About 200 Afghans called for the withdrawal of foreign troops and shouted anti-US slogans at a protest in Kabul on the eve of the anniversary.
They shouted: “Death to America and its Afghan puppets” and torched a US flag at the end of their march through the city center, a reporter at the scene said.
The war was launched to oust the Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who allegedly plotted the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US, and destroy al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
On Oct. 7, 2001, just under a month after the 9/11 strikes, US planes dropped dozens of cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs on strategic targets in Kabul and other Afghan cities.
That was followed by a ground campaign which defeated the Taliban within weeks. Insurgents lay dormant in Afghan and Pakistani hideouts for the next few years, severely depleted by the invasion.
US attention then turned to the war in Iraq, but violence flared back up again in 2007 and 2008, prompting a surge in the number of troops sent to fight the Taliban.
As those troops begin to withdraw ahead of 2014, the Taliban have increasingly focused on launching targeted attacks against foreign forces as well as the Afghan military and authorities.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force argues this shows it is winning the fight on Afghanistan’s battlefields.
Experts argue that the 10th anniversary finds Afghanistan at a key turning point.
“Time is running out to leave Afghanistan in an acceptable shape that would justify the time, money and lives spent in expanding the mission from counter-terrorism to state building,” said Terry Pattar, senior consultant at defense intelligence group IHS Jane’s.
Patar said there were “major doubts” over whether the Afghan government could enforce stability after foreign troops leave and predicted an eventual pact with the insurgents.
“There will have to be some form of rapprochement with elements of the Taliban if Afghanistan is not going to descend back into civil war,” Patar said.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference