Last week, Afghanistan was ravished by two horrific terrorist attacks in the eastern part of the country and in its capital Kabul. On January 24th, in Jalalabad, there was an incident on the offices of Saved the Children, where armed militants began their assault via a suicide bomber and proceeded to enter the workplace of the British charity using rocket-propelled grenades. There was a subsequent shootout between Daesh (Islamic State) militants and Afghan security forces that lasted 10 hours, according to The Guardian. The death toll was six people, three of which were aid workers. Three days after, a massive ambulance explosion (claimed by the Taliban) in downtown Kabul took the lives of 95 people, according to the London-based newspaper. Though heavily fortified, it is understood that the death toll was extremely large due to the high traffic of civilians in the area, as many embassies and other offices are located in the heart of the Afghan capital.
Attack-wise, it has been the worst week in the Asian nation since the beginning of 2018. It also comes against the backdrop of joint American-Afghan military operations (via drones or land-based assaults), as US intelligence are confident to address the presence of Daesh militants in the province of Nangarhar – where Jalalabad is located. The officer that oversees the American operation, Gen. John Nicholson, went as far as to declare that their efforts were a “gamechanger” in the fight against Daesh, but also against Taliban forces. However, it is worth noting that terrorist entities, such as Daesh or the Taliban, pay attention to military policy, especially when there is an explicit assumption that the areas in which they operate are safer than before. After all, the raison d’être of these organizations is to spread fear indiscriminately: targeting aid workers and civilians (including children) in many occasions, where such attacks are a clear message that American and Afghan efforts are failing.
In the United States, the word Afghanistan is almost taboo in certain political circles. Many tax-paying citizens believe that the presence of their troops in the Asian nation is ill-planned at best, and futile at worst. As such, since the Obama years, it has been a priority of the American executive to either reduce or altogether withdraw the number of soldiers in the country. While this is a political imperative, intelligence and military officials alike have debated and disagreed as to how precisely this military presence would be reduced over time. The current Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, pledged during his campaign that he would address the Afghani question once and for all. His advisers, however, pressured him to keep a nominal amount of security forces to not produce a dangerous security vacuum. On the other hand, it remains to be seen what the Afghani response will be, as it is more than predictable that for the 45th American President, violence begets violence.
Perhaps a more cautious – and realistic – method will be in the pipeline of the Afghani security apparatus, as the country has been dealing with an environment of perennial fear and urgently necessitates a comprehensive solution – beyond a military approach – to its current security predicament. Furthermore, there needs to be an impartial and objective solution, considering that the American presence is, at its root, a pivotal reason for the current state of affairs in the country. So far, however, the prospects of this solution seem bleak.