Talking peace, waging war

By Walt Braun

Even as the United States explores peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces condemns a bombing in Kajaki as evidence that the Taliban had “declared outright war” on the Afghan people.

If Americans, many of whom seem to give little thought to Afghanistan, need a reminder that war is being waged there, they ought to consider the deaths of six U.S. Marines Thursday in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. Preliminary indications are that there was no enemy fire in the immediate area, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that these troops died serving their country.

Another reminder of Afghan’s dangers came Friday when word came that an Afghan soldier killed four coalition troops in eastern Afghanistan, an area where both U.S. and French troops are deployed. That shooting and the helicopter crash bring to 28 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month.

Coalition troops aren’t the only individuals in danger. Far from it. In the Kajaki incident that U.S. Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO troops, referred to, 13 civilians, including several Afghan police officers, were killed and more than 20 others wounded in a suicide bombing Wednesday in a bazaar. The next day, a suicide car bomber killed at least seven civilians near the entrance to Kandahar Air Field, which is used by U.S. and NATO forces. Adding to the misery and instability this week were the assassinations of three local Afghan officials.

Perhaps, as Gen. Allen said, the escalation in violence will “only further isolate the Taliban from the process of peace negotiations.” Then again, while fighting the Taliban, the United States is showing every intent of talking with the Taliban to end a war that’s been going on for a decade. In fact, U.S. officials expect the most substantive talks with the Taliban to occur in the next week or so, setting guidelines for more formal talks.

This is occurring even as U.S. intelligence agencies warn that what’s motivating the Taliban to talk with the United States is the desire to gain credibility with the populace while continuing to expand their reach while waiting for U.S. troops to leave.

When that day comes, it will come as a surprise to some Americans, those who haven’t been paying attention while immense sacrifices were being made on their behalf.

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