The NYT reports that the Taliban deployed a massive truck bomb against a joint US-Afghan National Army forward operating base in the Arghandab river valley north of Qandahar, killing 6 US soldiers, injuring a handful of others, and wounding as many as 11 Afghanistan National Army troops. The soldiers who were killed were inside a new adobe building, which collapsed on them when the truck rammed it and the payload was detonated. The US is building a network of FOBs in the vicinity of Qandahar in a bid to push the Taliban out of this key southern Pashtun city. It seems obvious that the Taliban were given key intel on how to carry out this strike on US troops, by someone on the Afghanistan side at the joint base, again raising the question of whether the US plan quickly to train up another 100,000 local troops will not afford the enemy significant infiltration opportunities. It should be remembered that ARVN, the South Vietnamese army, turns out to have been riddled with Viet Cong sympathizers who were essentially double agents, and this at the level of the officer corps.
Some 20,000, or one in five of, Afghan National Police recruits have quit in just the past year.
In a new opinion poll of Afghans, 55 percent of respondents said they wanted US troops to leave their country.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan may be facing a constitutional crisis, as Attorney General Ishaq Aloko, an appointee of President Hamid Karzai, continues to impugn the integrity of this fall’s parliamentary election and to call for it to be abrogated. The Independent Electoral Commission, which threw out a fourth of the ballots on suspicion of fraud, insists that the remaining votes were legitimate. The results, however, were disadvantageous to the Pashtun ethnic group, which is roughly 44 percent of the country, since so many of them declined to vote for fear of Taliban reprisals (Taliban are mostly drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group and operate in the areas they dominate). Although the Hazara Shiites are only probably about a fifth of the populations, they gained about 2/5s of the seats. Hazaras are a kind of lower caste in Afghan society and it does not help parliament’s legitimacy in the Pashtun regions for there to be so few Pashtun deputies or for there to be so very many Hazara ones. The Commission warned of blood in the streets if Aloko continues to press for a dissolution of the new parliament (apparently in hopes of finding a way to strengthen the Pashtun element in the lower house).
As if all this bad news were not bad enough, President Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, is in critical condition after being operated on for a torn aorta, after a sudden collapse. Some of the political crisis over the election outcome may be brewing in part because Holbrooke is not in Kabul to seek a compromise.