As the Obama administration decides whether or not to withdraw its remaining 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, ominous signs are hovering over the country because of the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz and the reckless American airstrikes on 3 October – killing 12 innocent medical workers and 20 patients and injuring 37 others – for which the White House has finally apologised and which the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has quite rightly called a “war crime”. The capital of the province bearing the same name, the city of Kunduz is a strategic transport hub for northern Afghanistan. In an extraordinary show of strength after 14 years of insurgency and insurrection, in late September the Taliban unexpectedly overran the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. By the hundreds, Taliban fighters stormed the city in the early hours of the morning of 28 September 2015 and quickly seized key buildings and advanced on the airport. They took control of most areas and freed hundreds of prisoners from the local jail. Ensuing attempts to retake the city resulted in humanitarian disaster.
President Obama ultimately called MSF’s international president Joanne Liu to tender his apology for the deadly attack on the field hospital in Kunduz but it was too little too late and involved at least four shifts in as many days in the US narrative. From initially blaming their Afghan colleagues on the ground for calling in the airstrikes and denying knowledge, the US finally accepted that its own forces were responsible for insanely requesting the deadly attacks. MSF has said that the US airstrike is a clear violation of the Geneva conventions and the charity also argues that such no notice military actions blatantly breach the Pentagon’s express 2015 instructions on the rules of war. The fall of Kunduz is seen as a turning point in the war-torn country’s relentless conflict. Although the Afghan security forces are not strained by sectarianism like their Iraqi counterparts, it can be strongly argued that the departure of western forces from Afghanistan may expose it to the type of situation which gripped Iraq with the exit of the Americans and the rise of ISIS.
Given that the incident occurred while the Russians are conducting “precision” strikes against ISIS in Syria more competently than the US did in Kunduz, very serous doubts arise about the efficiencies attributable to western forces in Afghanistan. (Albeit, perhaps to cover up its own screw up in Kunduz, the west claims that reports that multiple missiles fired into Syria by the Russian navy from the Caspian Sea crashed in Iran.)
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