Night Watch

Afghanistan: An Afghan soldier shot and killed a US major general and wounded at least 14 other military men, including five British, seven Americans and generals from Germany and Afghanistan. A late report indicates two others have died.

A U.S. official said the gunman fired on the foreign soldiers using a light machinegun. Afghanistan's Defense Ministry described him as a "terrorist in army uniform." The U.S. and German generals were on a visit to Marshal Fahim National Defense University, which is an officers' academy modeled on the UK's Sandhurst.

Comment: The routine nature of the visit heightens the terror effect of the killings. This was not a combat action. The American general was not a combat soldier. He was the deputy commanding general for the Combined Security Transition Command, involved in preparations for the withdrawal of coalition troops at the end of the year.

The Afghan narrative is that the shooter was a Taliban infiltrator disguised as an Afghan soldier. That is possible, but it is equally plausible that the shooter simply heard the call of Allah to kill the general, who he might have mistaken for British. If the shooter was an infiltrator, then British security at the school needs a thorough overhaul. The shooter was on guard duty.

A second point is the reasoning that says shoot and harass the foreigners as they depart. Sound judgment, if not sound strategy, would recommend that the Taliban and Afghans in general do everything they could to facilitate and accelerate the departure of the coalition forces and husband their resources for the next phase of Afghanistan's security development..

However, that strategy would deprive the Taliban of the honor of humiliating the foreigners as they leave. That explains the recent spate of large scale attacks against district centers last month.

The tribal victory narrative features the theme of driving the foreigners out and debasing them as they left. That is what the mujahedin claim they did to the Soviet forces and what they say their ancestors did to the British before them. The Soviets had to fight their way out, on the road from Kabul to Termez on the Amu Darya. The departing coalition forces should expect a similar set of challenges, especially as the withdrawal quickens later this year.

Iraq: During this Watch, news services reported that Kurdish forces are on the offensive and have retaken Sinjar, which is in northwestern Iraq and near the tri-border point where Syria, Turkey and Iraq meet. McClatchy reported that Syria and Turkish Kurds have joined the offensive push.


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