Diplomacy Can’t Solve All of Afghanistan’s Problems

But Neither Can U.S. Troops

A U.S. Marine at an outpost near Kunjak in southern Afghanistan, February 2011 Finbarr O'Reilly/REUTERS

On the night of August 17, as over 1,000 guests danced at a wedding celebration in Dubai City, a hall in Kabul named after the Afghan elite’s favorite weekend getaway, a 23-year-old interloper detonated his suicide vest by the bandstand. The blast killed 80 people and wounded nearly 200 more, mostly from the Hazara ethnic group, followers of the Shiite sect of Islam predominant in that neighborhood of western Kabul. The groom and bride, who are both Shiite, miraculously survived. “I will never see happiness in my life again,” the groom, a tailor named Mirwais Elmi, told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews.

This was the worst of the bloody events that have punctuated nine rounds of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators since July 2018. Ten days earlier, a Taliban suicide attack on a Kabul police station left 14 dead and 145 wounded. On the night of August 11, a joint U.S.-Afghan unit of the Khost Protection Force, a “counterterrorist” unit run by the CIA, captured and summarily executed 11 unarmed male civilians in the Zurmat district of Paktia Province, on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan. The victims were abducted at night while celebrating the holiday of Eid al-Adha and shot in the head at close range. On July 20 and 22, bombing raids by U.S. and Afghan Air Forces killed 12 civilians, including nomads and farmers in Badghis and Logar Provinces.

In what might have been a cruel parody of the origins of Afghanistan’s violence—but turned out to be an even crueler fact—the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS) based in Iraq and Syria issued a statement in Arabic (a language not spoken in Afghanistan) taking responsibility for the attack on the wedding and claiming it had been carried out by one “Abu Asim al-Pakistani,” whose very name seemed to mock the irrelevance of Afghanistan to its own people’s suffering. ISIS claimed that the wedding guests were “polytheists.” The government claimed that the victims in Zurmat were “Taliban.” The Taliban claimed the police station

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