U.S. and Allies Reach a Framework on Withdrawal Ahead of Chicago NATO Summit


April 19: The U.S. and NATO Allies agreed on a framework for withdrawal from Afghanistan in Brussels this week. Most significant details remain to be worked out. These plans will be announced at the NATO Summit in Chicago this summer.

Russia announced yesterday that it disagrees with NATO withdrawal plans for 2014. Foreign Minister Lavrov suggested that until the Afghan security forces are completely able to take control of the country, NATO should not establish any timelines. Russia is wary that an early NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan will undermine security in Central Asia. 

Karzai commented on the photos released yesterday of U.S. soldiers posing with the remains of dead insurgents, calling them "disgusting."

The Council on Foreign Relations discusses whether Mitt Romney's policy on Afghanistan will be a problem with the electorate.

The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said "there is no doubt" that the Haqqani Network was responsible for attacks in Kabul last week, placing the onus squarely on Pakistan to clamp down on this group. This may represent even further deterioration of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.

The deportation of Osama bin Laden's wives has hit more snags, as they remain in Pakistan before they are returned on Saudi Arabia and possibly Yemen. Many are hoping that once the wives leave Pakistan, more details will come out about Bin Laden's whereabouts after September 11th until his death.

April 18: Prime Minister Gillard of Australia announced that Australian troops with withdraw from Afghanistan a year ahead of schedule. She cited "war weariness" of her country and "improved" security on the ground in Afghanistan for this move. This announcement comes ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago this summer.

U.S. soldiers were allegedly photographed posing with corpses of suicide bombers at the scene of a bombing they were sent to investigate. The LA Times published these photos. It is unclear whether these photos will spark outrage within the country, but they will further damage relations between the U.S. and Afghan governments and forces. 

One hundred and fifty young girls were poisoned in Afghanistan during the school day. The girls were most likely poisoned by an anti-education group who contaminated their drinking water.

This report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims that poppy crops are at their highest levels in half a decade. 

Blame for the attacks in Kabul earlier this week has been placed on the Haqqani Network. This network is seen as a "strategic asset of the Pakistani spy agency" in Afghanistan. As a result, relations between the United States and Pakistani are likely to hit another rough patch. Although U.S. officials do not believe that this particular attacked originated in Pakistan, the U.S. will ask Pakistan to "squeeze" the Haqqani Network in upcoming months. One has to wonder if Afghanistan and the United States will ever learn the old adage, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Pakistan has reportedly solidified the agreement to reopen NATO supply routes through Pakistan, providing they are not used to transit arms or ammunitions. 

April 16: In the flurry of activity yesterday surrounding the attacks in Kabul, this story was swept under the rug. Nearly 400 prisoners, many of whom are members of the Pakistani Taliban, managed to escape from prison in the Northwest area of Pakistan. The prison break was orchestrated by at least 100 militants who stormed the prison, heavily armed, in the middle of the night.

One would hope that the Pakistanis have better control over their nuclear weapons than they have security on their prisons.

April 15: Large scale, coordinated attacks shake separate parts of Kabul as well as other provinces across Afghanistan. ISAF claims that as many as 7 separate locations within Kabul are under attack, including the U.S., Russian, and German embassies. NATO headquarters is also rumored to be a target of this attack.

Assailants have taken over multiple buildings, possibly wearing suicide vests, not only in Kabul but it Patkia province as well. The assailants are equipped with RPGs, heavy ammunition, and suicide vests, forcing members of the Afghan parliament to take up arms and defend the Parliamentary buidling along with security forces. The Afghan Parliament itself received direct rocket fire, along with the Russian Embassy. Diplomats were the target of this coordinated attack in Kabul, whereas security facilities across the country were targeted at the same time. The gunmen allegedly took over a Kabul hotel, using it as staging ground for attacks against the Parliament, security forces, and other embassies in the area.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for these attacks. Their complexity and coordination is sure to bring added scrutiny to the Afghan security forces in the upcoming weeks as the spring fighting season begins in earnest.

April 14: Here is a recap of the main events in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past three days. 

Today, Burhanuddin Rabbani's son was appointed as the head of the High Peace Council. Rabbani senior was killed by a suicide bomber and now his son is slated to take his place. Salahuddin Rabbani is now the "top peace envoy" in Afghanistan. 

On April 12, President Hamid Karzai announced he was considering holding elections a year early, in 2013. This would avoid having presidential elections during 2014, the year in which NATO forces are withdrawing. Karzai does not have the constitutional power to move elections, however, he did suggest that perhaps NATO forces should speed up their withdrawal.

The same day, a night raid in Faryab province resulted in the death of a tribal elder and sharia law professor, Qari Qiyamuddin. The death of this man sparked riots and brought the controversial night raids under further scrutiny during the week U.S. and Afghan officials signed a deal regarding the raids. Earlier in the week, Reuters reported that female teams of Afghan forces were being trained for night raids to ease cultural tensions associated with this practice.

The Afghan Defense and Interior Ministers spoke were in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Defense Minister Wardak voiced his concerns that the Taliban should make efforts to gain U.S. and Afghan trust before prisoners are transferred from Guantamo to "house arrest" in Qatar. Both leaders seemed to believe that there has been significant progress in the Afghan war, despite the negative press of late. 

The Pakistani parliament finally reached a decision on relations with the United States. The Parliament, both government and opposition, struck a consensus. This consensus declares that there will be no covert United States operations or drone strikes within Pakistani territory. Also, NATO supply lines to Afghanistan will be reopened. However, these supply lines will not be able to carry any weapons or munitions. Still, munitions were hardly ever transited through Pakistan. It will be interesting to see whether drone strikes will end as a result of this decision and what will be the repercussions when these strikes do not stop. 

April 11: As NATO withdraws troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Afghan forces will drastically reduce their armed forces within the country. Common belief is that the force will be reduced from its current size of 352,000 to around 230,000. The current size of the force is unsustainable, allegedly, because of budget concerns.

Saudi Arabia offered to aid Pakistan's energy problems if Pakistan promised to relinquish the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project.

April 9:  The United States reached a deal with its Afghan partners on the controversial night raids that have plagued relations between the two countries for quite some time. These raids will now be under control of Afghan forces with the United States in a supporting role. The raids now fall under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts. This deal will help the United States reach a strategic agreement with Afghanistan regarding the role for U.S. troops after the pull out in 2014. This deal will not cover night raids that are conducted under U.S. covert forces within the country. However, the U.S. will not have the ability to question any detainees acquired in these raids. The Christian Science Monitor asks whether this deal "handcuffs" the United States.

Afghanistan plans to launch its first satellite in the hopes that this satellite will bring increased television access to rural areas of Afghanistan.

President Zardari of Pakistan and Prime Minister Singh discussed Afghanistan as they met recently in India. Zardari claimed this was an "unofficial" visit to a Muslim shrine. President Singh vows  to visit Pakistan soon, however, barbs traded after this visit between high level officials in both countries proves that there is much ground to make up.

April 6: Three National Guardsmen from Ohio were the NATO members killed in a suicide attack in Maimanah on Friday. Another soldier from Ohio was killed on Tuesday as well. 

Presdient Hamid Karzai finally called for a special tribunal to be established that would look into the corruption that has plagued the Bank of Kabul, resulting in money disappearing, and the near collapse of Afghanistan's central bank. Karzai demanded that all outstanding loans to the bank be paid back within two months. 

A fuel tanker fire in Panjwai, Afghanistan killed 7 people. The Taliban claimed that it fired a rocket at the tanker, causing the explosion, but this has been refuted by Afghan officials. A NATO soldier was also killed in southern Afghanistan, although no details are available as of yet regarding his nationality.

In Kunar, northeast Afghanistan, the head of the high peace council for this province was killed in a suicide bombing. The assailant approached the head of the peace council, his son, and his body guard, and blew himself up upon greeting them.

Hizb-e-Islami, the militant group under the leadership of Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, will renew talks with the Afghan government and the United States. They cancelled these talks on March 29th, citing a lack of progress, but appear ready to renew talks.

President Zardari of Pakistan is visiting India, the first trip by a Pakistani official since 2005. Although he is official calling this trip a "personal" visit to a Muslim Sufi shrine in India, President Zardari is meeting for an unofficial lunch with Prime Minister Singh of India. It is likely that the bounty placed on the head of Hafiz Saaed by the United States will be discussed between these two officials.

Speaking of Hafiz Saeed, he called for jihad against the United States during his fiery Friday sermon in Pakistan. Calling on the people of Pakistan, he said, “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.” Meanwhile, the Pakistani government came out against the bounty for Saeed saying it would "further widen the trust deficit." Pakistani officials called the bounty "ridiculous" and added that it will place further strain on the relationship and will continue to damage talks within Pakistani Parliament regarding the relationship with the United States.

Sanadand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute calls Saeed the "Pakistani army's favorite terrorist" in this op-ed from The Wall Street Journal. He calls for the Pakistani courts to summon and arrest him, but if this does not occur, Dhume suggests Saeed should meet the same fate of Bin Laden and Awlaki. 

April 4: The New York Times reports that the United States and the Afghan government are close to a deal regarding the practice of night raids. This practice has been a point of contention, and antagonism, between the two countries for quite some time. According to the Times, the Afghan government will have legal oversight of the raids while the United States remains a guiding presence in conducting them. If this deal is struck, the United States can move toward establishing a larger strategic agreement with Afghanistan. The night raid deal is on hold until an agreement can be struck on who will hold prisoners after these raids.

A suicide bomber targeting coalition troops in Northern Afghanistan killed 10 people, including four police officers and six civilians. Two women and two children were killed. Earlier on Wednesday, two NATO troops were killed in Northern Afghanistan as well, although their nationalities are yet to be released. Now, 96 NATO troops have been killed this year and over half of those have been Americans. Next door in Pakistan, at least six people were killed as a blast ripped through a van in the Khyber District.

Pakistan has added more security to Hafiz Saeed, leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, as the United States placed a $10 million on his head. As many have expected, this will prove to be another glitch in the relationship between Pakistan and the United States. Hafiz Saeed openly taunted the United States and said it is "regrettable that America has no information about [him]. Such rewards are usually for those who live in caves and mountains." Saeed is wanted in relation to the Mumbai attacks.

April 3: The United States placed a $10 milliion bounty on the head of Hafiz Saeed, leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who operates freely in Pakistan and is wanted in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

Six local police were poisoned and then killed by Taliban insurgents in Helmand province.

Deputy Secretary of States Thomas visits Pakistan in an attempt to repair the broken relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.

March 31: Nicholas Burns, former diplomat and current professor at Harvard, says that the last month has been the "worst three or four weeks since we arrived in Afghanistan in 2001." His interview with the Chicago Tribune comes just before the NATO conference in Chicago in the near future. His comments on NATO are illuminating, saying that Germany is continually "punching below its weight" and that Europe does less than its fair share on the whole. In Burns' opinion, the United States is "80% of the [NATO] alliance."

In response to an attack on the the Afghan army, "dozens" of Taliban insurgents were killed by airstrikes and gun battles in Western Afghanistan.

Security officials in Pakistan acknoweledge that 4 militants were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Waziristan yesterday. There was significant collateral damage in the area and this comes as fierce debates continue over the nature of the relationship between Pakistan and the United States in the future.

This article provides an interesting inside look at some of the dynamics at play after the alleged planned attacks within the Afghan Ministry of Defense a few days ago. General Omar Zadran, a Pashtun general charged with protecting President Karzai's palace, was accused of involvement with the Ministry of Defense plots. These accusations were based on Zadran's connections with Haqqani, the notorious insurgent leader whom Zadran fought alongside during the war with the Soviets. Zadran was rumoured to be arrested after the cache of vests were found within the Ministry of Defense, however, he denies all connections to Haqqani and declares he remains loyal to the idea of democracy in Afghanistan.

March 30: (2:07 PM) Many fear that businesses will leave Afghanistan was troops leave the country in 2014. Most believe that as Afghanistan enters a "post-war" economy, the economy will contract and money will dry up. Still others fear that the Taliban will return and are looking to leave before that occurs. 

An Afghan local policeman drugged nine of his fellow law enforcement officials and then shot and killed them in the latest act of fratricide in Afghanistan. The shooter is a member of a local militia, known as the Afghan local police force, that has been highly touted by coalition forces as an example of Afghan's retaking control of their own country. However, this is the third episode with the month that has occurred with this police force. The program's critics say it is made of up criminals and former Taliban members and puts them in a position of power with armed force. The shooter in this incident was not apprehended and fled, rejoining Taliban forces, with a cache of weapons. 

Two NATO troops were killed in separate incidents in Southern Afghanistan yesterday. One was killed by a roadside bomb and the other by an armed attack. This brings the casualty total for foreign troops to 94 for this year.

Pakistani Parliament discussions regarding Pakistan's relationship to the United States have stalled, possibly leaving NATO supply routes and our strategic relationship in limbo. Prime Minister Gilani called for the release of Rs 6 billion, directed to the water and power ministries, in order in an attempt to quell protests that have enflamed Punjab province, which has been experience blackout conditions for quite some time.

Dawood Ismail Ahmed, for Foreign Policy, smartly confronts the question of why Pakistan has not legally challenged United States drones strikes in this article. He argues the United States need not be concerned until a legal challenge is filed. In Ahmed's argument, there won't be a challenge, because these strikes do not affect the Pakistani elite class.

March 29: Hezb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, have suspended peace talks with the United States, citing a lack of progress. A European spokesman for Hezb-i-Islami notes that informal discussions will continue, but that until a “practical” approach is taken, formal talks will be suspended. This comes on the heels of a similar announcement by the Taliban after a dismal few months for NATO and the United States in Afghanistan.

USAID programs are at risk of being terminated in the near future, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Steven J. Trent. As security for these programs is transferred to the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), the cost of security will go up by 46%, Trent claims. USAID flat out rejects this analysis and rejected the report “in its entirety.” Some U.S. officials believe that the real cost change will be closer to an increase of 16%, which will most likely still raise some challenges for funding and security.

A NATO convoy in Western Afghanistan came under heavy fire today, killing 5 Afghan security guards in a 3-hour firefight. The Afghan National Army sent in extra troops to aid the convoy against insurgents.

Pakistan is looking for Russian funds to subsidize its gas pipeline from Iran. China has recently expressed its reluctance to engage in the project for fear of being hit with economic sanctions. Pakistan is desperate to continue with this project, despite international sanctions against Iran, because it only produces 80% of its own energy and this deficit has debilitated industry within the country.

Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko believes that the United States’ military influence will diminish after 2014 and we must devise a new strategy for counterterrorism that does not include unpopular measures in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. 

March 28: A Human Rights Watch report issued today outlines the plight of women in Afghanistan. Women across Afghanistan are jailed for “moral crimes” including premarital sex and for “running away” from abuse, although the ladder this not a crime under Afghan penal code. According to HRW, nearly 400 women and girls are currently imprisoned for “moral crimes.” 

General Kayani of the Pakistani military met with to U.S. officials for the first time today since late last year. Today’s meeting is an important step toward rebuilding a fractured relationship between these two countries. The United States hopes this meeting will lead to the reopening of the supply lines between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have been closed since an incident last November where U.S. mistakenly fired upon a Pakistani military structure, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The U.S. has said that mistakes by both sides led to the deaths of these soldiers and therefore no charges will be filed. Simultaneously, the Pakistani Parliament is debating its partnership with the United States. This debate may restructure the relationship that the U.S. currently has with Pakistan.

British troops will withdraw 1,500 soldiers from Afghanistan next year, but as of now, the Brits are resisting calls for a sped-up withdrawal. Under this plan, 7,500 troops would remain in Afghanistan until September 2014 and at that point, most if not all would return home. Today, as part of an hastened pull-out, 200 French troops headed home from Afghanistan.

As of today, many Afghan officials have routinely denied reports regarding the cache of suicide vests found at the Afghan Ministry of Defense yesterday. However, many Afghan officials corroborated the claims. An attack of that magnitude, within the heart of fortified Kabul, would have in line with Taliban attacks of similar grandiosity last year. 

United States troops has instituted a "guardian angel" system, where troops will watch over one another at all times in order to prevent "green on blue" casualties. This change is accompanied by other safety precautions in the wake of recent attacks on NATO forces by their Afghan counter parts.

March 27: Eleven suicide vests were found within the Afghan Ministry of Defense in what is said to be preparation for a plot that would attack government employees as they made their way home. More than a dozen soldiers were arrested from the Ministry for alleged connection to the plot which was planned in one of the most heavily guarded areas of Kabul. The Afghan Defense Ministry has denied these reports. 

After two British soldiers were killed in a "green on blue" attack yesterday, another NATO soldier was killed at a security checkpoint by local Afghan police in Patkia province. Nearly 20 percent of all coalition causalities from this year have been in friendly fire events. "Green on Blue" attacks are the second leading cause of death for coalition troops, behind improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta continues to downplay the significance of these attacks.

Meanwhile, Pakistan turned down key concessions the United States was willing to make regarding drone strikes. These concessions included target limitations and advance noticed. General Petraeus was  rebuffed and relations have continued to deteriorate between these countries. Today, President Obama met with Prime Minister Gilani in an attempt to resuscitate this relationship at a nuclear security summit in South Korea. 

There has been a tremendous drop in the rate of drone strikes in Pakistan by the United States in early 2012. This drop should be viewed in light of current proceedings in Pakistani Parliament discussing the curtailment of drone strikes in their territory and an friendly-fire incident between the United States and Pakistan late last year. The United States recently decided that there will be no disciplinary action taken in regards to this incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, citing mistakes on both sides. 

Mukhdum Nusrat, a militant leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan wanted by both NATO and the Afghan government, was allegedly killed in a joint raid. This is a single success story in a dismal week where the United States saw the support for the war in Afghanistan fall to an all time low as 69% oppose the war.

March 26: A gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two British soldiers inside a NATO base in Helmand province. These types of attacks have been steadily on the rise over the past year. 

The United States paid relatives of those killed in the Panjwai massacre $50,000 in reparations. Those injured were also paid $11,000. This is in addition to $2,000 for those killed and $1,000 for those injured paid by President Karzai's government. 

The military has moved quickly to limit the use of mefloquine, a drug used to prevent malaria, in the days after the Panjwai massacre. The use of this drug has already been limited, due to is psychiatric effects. It is especially not to be given to those with TBI. However, this article hints that sometimes the use of this drug may fall through the cracks. It is unknown whether Staff Sgt. Bales was using mefloquine. His wife, in an interview with the Today Show, has said she does not "think he was involved" in the Panjwai massacre, pointing to his love for children.

As President Ahmedinijad condemned U.S. actions in Afghanistan, the delegation from the United States walked out of a regional security conference meeting in Tajikistan.

March 24: A roadside bomb in Kabul killed 5 individuals in southern Afghanistan today. The bomb was detonated by remote control and one of the victims was a former Afghan senator and tribal elder who was an important member of peace talks. Khairo Jan, the senator who was killed, is a member of the Popalzai tribe of which President Karzai is a member. 

President Karzai, Iranian President Ahmedinijad, and Pakistani President Zardari are meeting this week at a regional security conference in Tajikistan. 

The Afghan Taliban has "no faith" in the United States' ability to bring Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to justice. The Taliban again vowed retribution for this event. 

At home, GOP Presidential candidates have no problem slamming President Obama's Afghanistan policy, but they remain vague in what different actions they would take as Commander in Chief. 

March 23: Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was charged with 17 counts of murder, as well as 6 counts of attempted murder, for his alleged role in the Panjwai massacre. He will hear his charges on Friday at Fort Leavenworth. The Wall Street Journal has provided an intimate account with the father and family man, Mohammed Wazir, who lost 11 relatives in the attack.

Admist U.S. peace talk troubles, women on the Afghan High Peace Council say that they are being routinely marginalized throughout the process. This Council has the task of negotiating a peace settlement with the Taliban on behalf the government. Thought it is made up of 70 members, only 9 of these are women. Gulali Noor Safi, a female member of the Council, claims they have not been involved in "any major decisions." This is a disturbing trend as it is well known that women's participation in peace talks is integral to the success of the process.

March 22: Talks between the United States and Afghanistan seem futher in doubt as Secretary Panetta will not allow the release of 5 Taliban prisoners from Guantamo Bay to Qatar. To this point, the Qataris have not guaranteed that these prisoners will not be kept under strict monitoring and so the United States has not allowed the release. The Taliban demands the release of these prisoners as a requirement for peace talks. The Pentagon has now taken the lead on negotiating, rather than the State Department.

Afghan officials insist that reports of more than one gunman in the Panjwai massacre are false. These officials claim that no witnesses of the shooting believe there was more than one gunman. This conflicts with earlier reporing which the officials claim was only "hearsay."

In terms of geopolitics, the United States released a list of countries that continue to buy oil from Iran, despite sanctions. Pakistan is one of twelve countries on this list that are in danger of facing ramifications for usurping the sanctions. This news comes as Pakistan continues to support the possibility of an Iranian-Pakistani gas pipeline.

March 21: Al-Jazeera has reported divisions within President Karzai’s administration, especially in the wake of recent events, has led to the possible derailment of the strategic agreement with the United States. A conversation over the transfer of prisons to Afghan control led to a near physical confrontation between two of President Karzai’s counterparts. These members of the government accused each other of being agents of the United States and Pakistan, respectively, as President Karzai left the room. Eventually, the two were separated by General Allen and Ambassador Crocker. The written agreement over the prisons was eventually signed, but tensions remain palpable within the Karzai administration. The schism lies between those who believe cooperation with the United States is integral for continued progress in Afghanistan, but others have express their desire to cut ties with the United States.

The Guardian reports that a “faster than expected” draw down for UK troops in Afghanistan will result in a savings of £2.4 billion before their 2015 election. At the House of Commons, PM David Cameron claimed, "In terms of the programme of withdrawal… we will not be in a combat role in Afghanistan after 2014, nor will we have anything like the number of troops that we have now."

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton today said that the U.S. and Pakistan have “shared interests” in combating terrorism. In a conference with the Afghan Foreign Minister, Clinton vowed an “honest, constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan” while not directly commenting on a report issued by a panel in Islamabad regarding the United States’ role in the country.

There are reports that the suspect in the French school shooting in Toulouse, Mohamed Merah, had escaped from prison in Afghanistan with members of the Taliban. Merah is also a suspect in the shooting of three French soldiers. Merah was allegedly arrested in Kandahar, the proverbial home of the Taliban, for attempted bombings in late 2007. Afghan officials, however, deny that he was held in Afghan prison. The suspect himself claims to belong to al-Qaeda, but it is likely he is a member of Forsane Alizza.

March 20: General John Allen maintains that no decision will be made on U.S. withdrawal and timetables until the drawdown of “surge troops” from the summer ends this winter. His testimony before the House Armed services committee insists that the United States will transition to the control of Afghan forces by the end of 2013 and U.S. troop withdrawals are still on schedule for 2014.

Ryan Evans penned the opinion piece “Mission Can’t Complete” in response to Bruce Riedel and Michael O’Hanlon’s article “Mission Incomplete.” Both these articles represent important points of view regarding the war in Afghanistan going forward.

BACKGROUND: Recent events have brought the war in Afghanistan to the forefront of American political discourse. In early January, a video circulated depicting United States Marines urinating on the corpses of alleged Taliban fighters. This event was followed by the burning of many Qur’ans at Bagram air base because they allegedly were used as vehicles of communication between insurgents. Protests rocked the country in response to this event as NATO, United States military, and President Obama apologized profusely for this accidental burning. These apologize did not mollify those offended and U.S. officers were killed by their Afghan counterparts in retaliation for this event.

As the peace talks and cooperation with the Afghan government stood on rocky ground as a result of these events, a U.S. Sergeant named Robert Bales left his base in Panjwai and murdered 16 Afghans, many women and children. This event, the height of a series of disasters in the first three months of this year, has pushed President Karzai to the “end of his rope” and has canceled peace talks with the United States, leaving hopes of a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan all but dashed.  

The war in Afghanistan has cost the United States upwards of $512,000,000,000 since it began in late 2001 as a result of the September 11th attacks. More importantly, close to 3,000 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan (1,913 of these being Americans) and over 12,793 Afghans have lost their lives in related violence in the past six years.

The debate regarding staying the course in Afghanistan or pulling out of the country immediately has reached a crescendo. According to a recent poll, about half of Americans wish to see a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, while a quarter believe we should stick to the time table, and the remainder believes we should stay in the country until we accomplish all our goals. During an election year, this debate is sure to only intensify. This live blog will report on events relating to the war in Afghanistan.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons