Helicopter Shootdown Illustrates that Afghanistan Cannot be Ignored
In the bloodiest day since the NATO coalition army invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, on August 6, 38 people, including 30 Americans, many of whom were Navy SEALs, were killed when a Taliban insurgent shot down the helicopter in which they were flying with a rocket propelled grenade. In addition to creating a devastating situation for the families and friends of the victims of the attack, the Taliban's strike demonstrates to American and NATO forces that, unlike al-Qaeda appears to be doing, they will not fade into the darkness and disappear; rather, they plan to continue to fight and assault the remaining troops on Afghan soil.
Before this attack, Afghanistan appeared to be making its way down the list of NATO's military priorities. While lately it has been plagued by a string of violent attacks, such as the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghanistan appeared to have gained some stability in a region and world full of unstable, potentially combustible states; as a result, NATO and the US had planned to remove troops and transfer military authority to the Afghan National Security Force, a group that few feel can handle the responsibility of combating and attempting to eliminate the Taliban problem. Indeed, one can argue that right now, troops are needed as much as they ever have been.
However, the Middle East is in turmoil. NATO forces are engaged in Libya, and there has been talk about military interference of some semblance in Syria in order to prevent Bashar al-Assad and his government from murdering his own people as he has been able to do when the target of sanctions alone. Furthermore, the US has forces committed to Iraq who have been fighting pockets of resistance since America's 2003 invasion. And while plans exist to proportionally decrease and eventually eliminate all US military presence in Iraq as part of a peaceful transfer of power to the Iraqi government, one cannot expect all to go according to plan or for America to allocate troops removed from one war to fight in another. Rather, bringing the troops home is and will continue to be one of Barack Obama's main messages as the 2012 election approaches.
Therefore, with NATO conflict in Libya, US forces tied up in Iraq, and possible humanitarian situations in Syria and Somalia, UN and NATO armed forces are stretched extremely thin. However, one cannot possibly see and experience the horrors of watching thirty Americans killed by an enemy soldier without yearning for payback, a means to finish the fight against an enemy that has remained elusive and persistent throughout ten years of US occupation. Indeed, as of now, Saturday's attack has once again made Afghanistan a priority in the minds of American people; with the image of 30 dead fresh in their minds, popular sentiment will demand that troops remain in the area in order to eliminate the Taliban factions responsible for the attack.Continued on the next page