The previous night, three other marines were killed – also by a man clad in Afghan police uniform, also in Helmand province. The two incidents constituted what is called the 25th and the 26th “green-on-blue attacks”.
Attacks by Afghans on US and other NATO troops are obviously intensifying, while the announced deadline of the coalition troop withdrawal nears. Also frequently comes the news of Afghan police and army officers deserting and joining the Taliban. All this produces an atmosphere of uncertainty and disarray with no one being able to give a positive answer to the question of what will happen when (or, rather, if) the Western troops leave the country.
One does not have to be a prophet to say that while the number of foreign troops will gradually diminish, the impudence of their foes will grow proportionally. Therefore, last weekend, although being one of the deadliest recent attacks will hardly be the final one in the chain of similar incidents. The sad thing about it is the impossibility to withdraw all troops in one instant, therefore no one can say at the moment how many more young Americans and other Westerners will have to pay with their lives for the US” two consecutive presidents' ambitions.
The uncertainty is obviously felt at the highest levels of the Afghan establishment too. While for President Hamid Karzai the only secure way out of the situation is fleeing the country while foreign troops are there, not all in the highest echelons of power will be able to do the same. And this creates a situation where high-ranking officials have already started a scramble for appearing most dovish and loyal to future rulers.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the chief of Afghanistan’s antigraft commission has called for the country’s finance minister to step aside while he is being investigated in connection with corruption allegations. He is one of the four ministers (the others being ministers of Defense, Interior and Mining) who have been under considerable pressure to resign. And it is hardly coincidental that all four are looked upon as closest US allies.
Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has already resigned, while the resignation of the three others seems all but set. And this raises the prospect that the West’s already tenuous relationship with the Afghan government could become even less stable.
Accusations of corruption are nothing new in today's Afghanistan which according to Transparency International is second (from the bottom of the list) only to Somalia. But the fact that the tool is being used by other cabinet members (quite unlikely to be much cleaner in this respect) shows that the Afghan establishment is bracing for a change of power and the advent of new rulers.
This becomes even more obvious after, as reported by The Huffington Post, Afghan government representatives met with a top-ranking Taliban member Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in his prison cell in Pakistan. Mullah Baradar was captured in Pakistan in 2010, and many observers rank him as high as No 2 (inferior only to Mullah Omar) and an acting leader of the movement as of 2009.
No particular details of the talks between the Afghan government officials and Mullah Baradar have been reported, but taken together, all this produces a clear picture. The nation is fed up with the ten plus year presence of foreign occupational forces, and almost every faction of the society is ready to embrace the force that once ruled the country – however strict and cruel that rule might be.
Past weekend's picture and the hunt Afghan police officers have opened on US soldiers might seem grim enough. But how much more is in store, the US strategists should have thought before plunging into the Afghan adventure almost 11 years ago.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies