Khaos in Kunduz

Topic: Situation in Kunduz

Two weeks ago the Taliban force back Afghan defenders of the town Kunduz. If Kunduz sounds familiar, it may also be due to the recent US airstrike that hit the only hospital in Kunduz run by Doctors Without Borders. After two weeks of US air support and an ongoing ground battle, Taliban forces retreated under their declared reason being the defense of Kunduz was a “waste of ammunition.”

Taliban exit Afghan city of Kunduz but claim mission was successful,

History of the Conflict (not news):

US troops to stay in Afghanistan in policy shift:


Emily: I am concerned about the Afghan government’s lack of control over the situation in Kunduz. The Taliban has not possessed this level of power in over a decade and the fact that the Afghan government cannot seem to establish dominance over the Taliban the way they claim to be able to is an issue. It poses a problem to the people of Afghanistan, and it has inspired the U.S government to further their involvement which is not conducive to nonviolent interactions.

Dr. Dubreuil: Afghanistan’s government has been one of the many used as pawns between stronger global powers. Many of the countries involved in Afghanistan, including the U.S., have led to the crisis the country is facing now. How does that affect the ability of the government to take strong stands against internal crisis without the help of foreign aid?

Group: The Afghan government cannot take a strong stance with regards to their crisis as the foreign “aid” provided only exacerbates their conflict. It is our (Binh-Quoc & Alicia’s) belief that countries in the midst of a civil war should have the right to be able to resolve their own differences without international intervention. The Afghan government does not have the influence or power to respond to the internal crises that they face on their own. It is very possible that the Afghan government has been exposed to large foreign powers for too long, and their dependence on foreign aid has made Afghanistan complacent.The current involvement of the United States can be interpreted as either a continuation of the initial (but now outdated) reaction to terrorists or as an attempt to control a portion Afghanistan’s resources, neither actively conducive to peace-making.

Binh-Quoc: While the Taliban have not displayed this much power or influence in recent times, this direct attack has more than proven their potential threat. By managing to hold Kunduz for 15 days, I think the Taliban exerted their forces in an attempt to destabilize the region even further while proving that the Afghan government is nowhere near powerful enough to stop such an attack.

Alicia: But it wasn’t only the Afghan government that the Taliban proved powerless, it was the international forces as well; by claiming Kunduz the Taliban exhibited dominance over the 17000 troops of the international forces involved. From the western perspective it would seem that we should have had the advantage: more money, more combat experience, better technology, but yet the Taliban proved these insignificant. Was the failure due to the natural advantages the Taliban might have (knowledge of the geography, relations with locals, etc.) or due to a failure between the outside forces providing aid to properly utilize their strengths?

Riley: I feel it may be possible that the Taliban feigned their reasons for leaving as well as their potential to come back to strike fear and worry into their adversaries including the Afghan government. There is probably some truth in these statements due to their reported skill that was lacking in previous attacks, but they are more than likely exaggerated for this purpose of intimidation. As many civilians no longer feel safe and are reluctant to return to Kunduz as a result.

Binh-Quoc: I’m personally more interested in President Obama’s reaction to the current events in the Middle East. People see the war in the Middle East as a unending conflict, and with the recent rising tension due to, the prospect of a full military withdrawal from the Middle East is becoming a slimmer probability. In one of the NYT articles, it is stated that President Obama “appears increasingly willing to keep a force there large enough to carry on the hunt for Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants.” While I feel that this stance will cause people to feel less than happy with the promises that Obama has to bring our forces home, the reason for his new stance could be due to the recent conflicts and issues showing that the United States isn’t quite ready to leave the entire region as it has proven to be so unstable.

Dr. Dubreuil: So this conflict is related to other decisions made by Obama in the Middle East. How?

Binh-Quoc: In relation to other conflicts in the Middle East, President Obama has done what I would call a cleanup of the Bush Administration’s mess. He did keep his promise to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2011 and he also declared the war on terror to be officially over in 2013. However, President Obama has gotten the US involved in other conflicts; such was the case in 2011 where the United States and allied forces deployed reactionary forces to intervene on a humanitarian basis in response to the use of chemical weapons by Muammar Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya. In an exclusive interview by Thomas Friedman from The New York Times, President Obama compared the situation in Libya to the situation in Syria where it was suspected that chemical weapons were being used. While none of this directly ties into the strictly strike-teams and airstrikes that the United States has distanced itself to using instead of a more direct ground force presence, I found this quote illuminating on how President Obama approaches issues in the Middle East.

“I’ll give you an example of a lesson I had to learn that still has ramifications to this day,” said Obama. “And that is our participation in the coalition that overthrew Qaddafi in Libya. I absolutely believed that it was the right thing to do.… Had we not intervened, it’s likely that Libya would be Syria.… And so there would be more death, more disruption, more destruction. But what is also true is that I think we [and] our European partners underestimated the need to come in full force if you’re going to do this. Then it’s the day after Qaddafi is gone, when everybody is feeling good and everybody is holding up posters saying, ‘Thank you, America.’ At that moment, there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that didn’t have any civic traditions.… So that’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer [for] the day after?’”

I feel that this quote from President Obama helps illustrate why our approach to the Afghanistan conflicts hasn’t been quite direct. While we do have air strikes, and precision strikes, the effectiveness of these tactics is in question. President Obama recently changed his policy to keep 5,500 troops stationed in Afghanistan. His original policy was to leave a small force to guard the US embassy. In a quote from a BBC News article, President Obama stated that “as commander in chief I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

Emily: I believe that President Obama has nothing to lose at this point in his second term. As he nears the end of his time as President, he is no longer trying to win the vote so he has more freedom this time around with his choices surrounding the Taliban. I think that under these conditions, Obama will be more likely to forgo his previous decision to remove troops from Afghanistan in order to attempt to “handle” this most recent Taliban action.

Dr. Dubreuil: Politics kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

Binh-Quoc: But do you think that what President Obama is doing is the correct or most logical course of action?

Alicia: I do not think we have enough experience with international diplomacy or conflict to fully answer, or even comprehend all of the factors at play, but from what I understand I do not believe that continued US involvement in this way is beneficial. In my opinion, President Obama should offer counseling and monetary aid directly to the Afghan government.

Dr. Dubreuil: The United States is arguably one of the most powerful hegemons in the world. How is this conflict different from other instances of U.S. diplomacy?