Attack on Medical Group Highlights Taliban Desperation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 7, 2005 A recent attack on a medical assistance team in Afghanistan highlights the enemy's desperation, officials in the country said.
A joint Afghan-U.S. medical assistance team came under attack from a small group of enemy forces in the eastern province of Kunar. Soldiers drove the enemy away and continue to search the region.
"It's incredible to us that the enemy would attack our forces while we are providing innocent Afghans with health care," said Army Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force 76. "These attacks will not deter us; we will continue to provide this type of civic assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
"The enemy has proved through their actions again that they are only interested in oppression and terror for the people of this nation," he continued. "Every step we take forward with the Afghanistan government further and further marginalizes their cause."
The number of attacks directed against Afghan and coalition forces has increased, said Pentagon officials, who noted that there are a couple of reasons. First, summer is the "season" for war in the region. Winter in Central Asia is tough, and throughout history, it was a time when opposing sides hunkered down and waited for the weather to improve.
Second, the democratically elected Afghan government is making real progress. About 8.5 million Afghans voted in the October 2004 contest that elected Hamid Karzai as president. On Sept. 18, Afghanistan will hold elections for a national assembly and provincial councils. Officials hope the elections will show Taliban and al Qaeda remnants that the Afghan people do not sympathize with their brand of extremism.
In addition to the elections, other signs of progress in Afghanistan make terrorist positions untenable. Afghan and coalition officials are building roads, digging wells, building schools, establishing health clinics, providing veterinary services, and providing security. The NATO International Security Assistance Force has assumed security in the area around the capital of Kabul and the eastern part of the country, to include the city of Herat. About 8,000 NATO soldiers are helping the Afghan National Army and police forces maintain order and stability in the area.
The steps have splintered the Taliban. Officials said Taliban sympathizers are increasingly turning to the government. Karzai has reached out to those people to bring them into the political process. Officials believe this is a sign that the "moderates" in Afghanistan are winning.
Now is not the time to declare victory and pull out of the country, officials said. The opposition knows its only hope of beating the Afghan government and the coalition is to continue these small-scale attacks and hope that the international community loses patience.
Pentagon officials believe that, as the September elections approach, Taliban and al Qaeda operatives will step up their attacks in hopes of intimidating voters.
There is a hard-core group in the Taliban that will continue to fight, and the United States has about 19,000 troops in country to continue offensive operations.
Increasingly effective Afghan forces are joining those forces. There are about 24,000 members of the Afghan National Army and coalition forces have accelerated training to reach 70,000 by September 2007. In addition, there are about 40,000 Afghan police aiming toward 62,000 by October 2006.