Two Afghan civilians have been killed and 73 others injured in a suicide bombing conducted by the Taliban near a key U.S. military airbase. The target in question—the Bagram Airbase—is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. The attack comes as the negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban delegations in Qatar enter their sixth day. The resumption of negotiations comes after the previous round of peace talks was halted by President Trump in September following the killing of a U.S. soldier by the Taliban.
The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan announced his outrage at the attack and stated the talks would be “taking a brief pause,” but would be resuming within a few days. “Before the Taliban’s attack, Americans launched airstrikes in Sangin (district of Helmand) and I wished neither had happened so the talks would continue normally,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander. Sources stated that the Bagram airbase attack was in fact the “opposite of what the Qatar Taliban wants,” citing that there are a number of different factions within the Taliban that may act independently of one another. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attack, telling reporters that “this is precisely the kind of activity that we’re working to reduce”. The Afghan government again urged the Taliban to adhere to a ceasefire: “the continuation of violence […] will be a big obstacle at the beginning of negotiations […] a ceasefire is a main condition for the peace talks,” a government spokeswoman said.
The negotiations are aimed at brokering a deal that would bring an end to the eighteen-year-long war. While attempts to bring the war to a close are a positive step, the reluctant and taciturn way in which the United States is engaging in such peace talks indicates that they are not serious when it comes to ending the war. As much was demonstrated by the most recent release of the ‘Afghanistan Papers,’ which detailed countless claims from U.S. officials stating they believed the war was unwinnable, and that there had been a concerted effort by the government to mislead the public about the lack of progress that was being made in the war.
In this way, is it clear that anything short of announcing an absolute withdrawal from Afghanistan should be treated as political posturing and superficial by the U.S., as the superpower has clearly never had any intention to end the war. In reality, the power of the military industrial complex—combined with the strategic allure of the region—is simply too powerful for any one administration to override. The permanency of these realities in the U.S. State Department has been the reason why both former president Barack Obama and the incumbent president Trump have failed to withdraw the U.S. from this war, despite their stated intentions to do so.
An important takeaway from this is that rather than the repeated claims that the Afghanistan War is being waged for the sake of protecting the public from terrorists, in reality its key purpose is strategic and monetary in nature. With the al-Qaeda terrorist who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks having long since been expelled from the country, the public ought to question why the U.S. has remained in Afghanistan in order to fight an unwinnable war against local insurgents who will never settle for anything but a complete U.S. withdrawal.
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