Wednesday marked the deadliest day for Afghanistan in over a year. Early yesterday morning, nine suicide bombers killed themselves in addition to 44 people in an attack on a court house in the Western Farah province, along the country’s border with neighboring Iran. More than 100 were injured.
Officials are currently linking the attack to the militant Taliban insurgency group, which claims to have designed the attack to free 10 of the group’s fighters who were on trial in the building. "We sent several warnings to those in the Farah government, telling them not to work there," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi explained. Afghan officials, however, are skeptical of any of the court’s inmates’ involvements in the Taliban group or of any verbal attempts at reconciliation prior to the attack.
Most concerning, of course, is the timing of this attack and the added pressures Afghan security forces continue to face as U.S. and NATO-led combat troops plan to withdraw by the end of the year.
Afghanistan Analyst Network gathered information earlier this year showing a dramatic deterioration in security, an increased targeting of government officials, and a regrouping of insurgent networks in this particular province within the Middle Eastern nation. Civilian casualties, they added, decreased in 2012, the twelfth year of this NATO-led war, for the first time in five years, however. The uniqueness of this last attack, though, was its target against civilian government employees, which has not previously been seen.
The unfortunate deaths also coincided with the return of Afghanistan’s powerful spy chief Asadullah Khalid from months in the U.S. undergoing severe medical treatment after an assassination attempt in December nearly took his life. During his time in U.S. hospitals, Khalid was visited by a long list of diplomats, including President Barack Obama. The implications of the murders alongside Khalid’s return could suggest undertones of clear U.S.-based animosity, or could just be coincidence.
Regardless of suggested implications, however, the incident brings about questions of Afghanistan’s ability to maintain its sovereignty after foreign militias leave the country, and how effective the last decade and more of U.S. presence and imposed ‘freedom’ have been.
Considering the relative infrequency of such calamitous disasters as was witnessed on Wednesday, it would be unwise to make sweeping judgments regarding Afghan stability and American competence based on this incident alone. And while General Joseph F. Dunford and President Barack Obama believe that the country is in a state for proper self-maintenance and regulation, there are those who think an extended U.S. presence would be beneficial to Afghan development and to keeping terrorist threats away.