America

Taliban Attack NATO Base in Afghanistan

As if on cue, a Taliban attack on a NATO airbase near Jalalabad Wednesday seems meant as a signal to Gen. David Petraeus, a day after a Senate panel signed off on his nomination as the new U.S. ground commander in Afghanistan.

NPR's Jackie Northam has a timely analysis on Morning Edition on just how difficult it might be to square the ground realities in Afghanistan with Petraeus' ambitious counterinsurgency plan.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and now a professor of history and international affairs at Boston University, tells Northam that Petraeus is "deeply invested" in the doctrine of counterinsurgency:

My own view is that the counterinsurgency strategy ... isn't working and that what we really need isn't just a change of command but a radical change of approach, Bacevich said.

In Wednesday's attack, gunmen set off a car bomb and then fired rocket-propelled grenades at the base, wounding two soldiers. It's exactly the kind of hit-and-run tactic that the military traditionally has difficulty defending against.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul reports that the attack is:

... a sign that after nine years of fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban still have plenty of fight in them, and are growing more sophisticated as the war goes on.

Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr, also reporting from Kabul:

The Taliban said the attack was a message to David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command who has been nominated to takeover leadership of Nato and US operations in the country, that they can strike at will.

Petraeus, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, warned that fighting in Afghanistan "may get more intense in the next few months."

At least on that point, Petraeus and the Taliban might be in agreement.

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