A suicide car bomb attack late Sunday evening near the Afghan city of Khost killed 33 people: 27 civilians and six members of the Afghan security forces. The bombing hit a checkpoint where members of the Khost Provincial Force were guarding Camp Chapman, a military base housing foreign troops, including American special operations forces. According to a brief statement by NATO, “no U.S. or coalition personnel were injured as a result of the attack”. Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, there is reason to believe the attack is part of the wider Taliban offensive which began in late April.
The Sunday attack is certainly not the first on this military base. In December of 2009, seven CIA American officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed in a Pakistani Taliban suicide bombing, carried out by Humam al-Balawi, who had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence. Al-Balawi had been considered a major source on Taliban and Al Qaeda activities before turning on his handlers.
Over the past few months, the Taliban and the Afghan government have been “engaged in informal talks”. However, as previously reported by the Free Fire blog, “the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate with the Afghan government does not imply a cessation in violent activity,” as we noted following a simultaneous July 7 attacks on the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Obama’s desire to have a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, especially considering the possibility of Taliban fighters pledging allegiance to Islamic State forces has the makings of a strategic catastrophe. As more US troops withdraw while Taliban attacks in Afghanistan simultaneously increase, the Afghan government will have a difficult time holding onto the gains it has made in the past few years; it will find itself increasingly battling the Taliban for control of territory and political power. Additionally, the Taliban is still conducting attacks on Americans in order to take credit for having driven the US out of the country. Just in January of this year, the Taliban was behind an attack on a military base attached to the international airport in Kabul that left 3 Americans dead. Being viewed as the dominant jihadist group, responsible for expelling the Americans, is vital to the Taliban, as it competes for recruits, financing, and resources with the Islamic State, which is attempting to make headway into the region.
If the Taliban is able to succeed in a complete resurgence over the Afghan government, the United States’ early-2000s involvement in removing the Taliban from power will have been futile.