The Kabul Attack–Virtual Replay of the 1981 Assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat

Courtesy Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The only difference between the two dramatic operations was that the assassins of Sadat were able to penetrate into the army ranks and the attack was from the army cadets participating the parade. In the case of the abortive assassination attempt on Karzai, the militants were not part of the parade but they were able to penetrate the tight security cordon around Kabul and stashed arms in a restaurant just some 500 yards from the parade ground.

However, in both cases the target of the attack were leaders perceived to be serving the western interests. Anwar Sadat had signed a peace deal with Israel that angered many in the Arab and Muslim world. Similarly, President Hamid Karzai, whose writ does not extend beyond his presidential palace, is seen by the militants as a symbol of western interests in Kabul.

Interestingly, the attack on Karzai came on the “Mujahideen Day” celebrating the expulsion of the Soviet forces by the Afghan Mujahideen in 1980s. And the attack was claimed by Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan, that was a leading anti-Soviet group. This group is led by Gulbadin Hekmatyar who was once one of the leading pro-US “Mujahedeen” leader. A Hizb spokesman said that the attack disproved Afghan government and NATO assertions that the Taliban insurgency has been weakened. “Afghan and NATO authorities this year repeatedly said the Taliban are on the verge of annihilation … Now it has been proved to them that the Taliban not only have the ability to operate in the provinces, but even in Kabul.”

Has NATO failed in Afghanistan?

Many observers argue that the NATO forces have not yet made any major dent to the Taliban strength and therefore they say that NATO has failed to attain its objectives.

Initially a sizable number of Afghan people were hopeful that NATO would soon be able to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan but after the passage of seven years with no notable successes, the attitudes are radically changing. The inability of NATO to deliver has disappointed many Afghans though the Afghan officials continue to eulogize in support of NATO.

By and large many Afghans now view the once hailed liberation army as an occupying force now. Inability to defeat Taliban despite being equipped with all the latest and sophisticated tools of war, the Afghan people are loosing confidence in their presence and some Afghans have now begun to sympathize with the Taliban.

Besides, the indiscriminate bombing have killed many Afghan civilians which in turn has also taken a heavy toll of Afghan patience.

In short, operation Enduring Freedom has brought neither peace nor prosperity to Afghanistan; just occupation. Seven years have passed and the country is still ruled by warlords and drug-merchants. Afghanistan now produces 90% of the world’s opium; more than any other country. The booming drug trade is the direct corollary of the US invasion.

President Bush has said that the war in Afghanistan must continue or the country will become a haven for drugs, terrorism and organized crime. But the Taliban and Pashtun tribesmen see it differently. They see the conflict as an imperial war of aggression which has only added to the suffering of their people.

A recent report by the United Nations Human Development Fund appears to support this view. It shows that Afghanistan has fallen in every category. The average life expectancy has gone down, malnutrition has risen, literacy has dropped, and more than half the population is living below the poverty-line. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced by the war. The occupation has created plenty of misery, but no democracy.

In 2001 the international determination to deal with Taliban and to reconstruct Afghanistan was indeed very impressive. Over the years not only the international community has become extremely slow even delivering the promised economic aid to Afghanistan but the attitudes are gradually changing. It seems that fatigue syndrome is setting in.

The battle for hearts and minds has been lost, too. A statement from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) best reflects the sentiments of Afghan people: After seven years, there is no peace, human rights, democracy or reconstruction in Afghanistan. The destitution and suffering of our people is increasing everyday. …We believe that if the troops leave Afghanistan, our people will become more free and come out of their current puzzlement and doubts…Afghanistan’s freedom can only be achieved by Afghan people themselves. Relying on one enemy to defeat another is a wrong policy which has just tightened the grip of the Northern Alliance and their masters on the neck of our nation.” (RAWA

Pakistan major target of the blame game

As the Nato forces fail to gain ground, Pakistan has become the major target of blame game with the US leaders often stressing that Pakistan is not doing enough to stop Taliban taking refuge in Pakistan’s tribal territory known as the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). To lend credibility to their carefully devised accusations, they sometimes undertake strikes on Pakistani areas adjacent to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The media invariably extends unlimited support and frequently publishes baseless stories about the presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders on Pakistani soil without providing any convincing proof.

While the American forces in Iraq are over 150,000, the forces in Afghanistan are meager 66,000 and all of which are not combat forces. At least 20,000 troops are not fighting but are merely performing police duties in one form or the other. Given the nature of terrain and the popularity of Taliban, this number is grossly insufficient. On the other hand Pakistan has deployed around 80,000 troops along the Pak-Afghan border and suffered more casualties than the NATO forces.

According to General Dan McNeill, the International Security Assistance Force Commander in Afghanistan, “if proper US military counterinsurgency doctrine were followed; the US would need 400,000 troops to defeat Pashtun tribal resistance in Afghanistan.”

It was not a surprise when a January 2008 report by the Atlantic Council of the United States pointed out that the NATO forces in Afghanistan are in a strategic stalemate, as Taliban insurgents expand their control of sparsely populated areas and as the central government fails to carry out vital reforms and reconstruction. “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” the report concluded.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: E-Mail:


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