First, a French task force from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was ambushed, and lost 10 soldiers. Last Friday, on August 22, more than 70 civilians were killed during an operation in the Shindand District in the Herat Province. The media reported that this operation was conducted by the coalition forces, that is, the U.S. Air Force. This event set the whole country in turmoil. Now Afghan President Hamid Karzai insists on revising the status of international forces in the country.
They are represented in Afghanistan by the U.S.-led international anti-terrorist coalition and the UN-mandated ISAF mission under NATO's general command. The goal of the former is to destroy al-Qaeda and Taliban commandos, while the latter is designed to guarantee stability on the territories from which they are ousted.
Operations conducted by these two missions are incomparable. The coalition is much more prone to make mistakes, and it has to prepare thoroughly for each operation. But what prevents the United States from doing so, all the more so since it already has some bitter experience?
During a similar operation in the Deh Raud District in the Uruzgan Province in July 2002, a U.S. aircraft bombed a wedding. Ironically, the bomb hit the house where Karzai had once taken shelter from the Taliban.
This was the first blunder, and the sides did not give it too much publicity. But this time, Karzai has expressed strong displeasure with the U.S. army and accused it of inability to coordinate its actions with the Afghan army. In turn, the U.S. command blamed the Afghan army for insisting on the bombing and indicating targets.
This is a familiar situation. Actions seem to have been coordinated but there is no one-man rule, or responsibility. The Afghan government is certainly right in insisting on a change in the status of the coalition troops. Judging by everything, it would like the coalition not only to coordinate its operations against al-Qaeda with the Afghan side, but have them endorsed by the latter.
What happened with the French soldiers is quite different. They were ambushed some 50 km (31 miles) from Kabul. Never before has NATO sustained such losses in a single combat, especially near the capital.
The French public had a predictable and immediate reaction. One French newspaper put it bluntly: "Faut-il partir?" (Is it time to leave?).
It is also alarming that Kabul was rocketed for the first time in nearly five years. Perhaps the central government is losing its contacts with the population in the Kabul Province. This is all but the only province where NATO more or less controls the situation. But Herat was also considered a safe province until recently.
Maybe, it is indeed time to go. But then what was the point of going into Afghanistan?
It seems that NATO has been extremely unlucky in Afghanistan recently, and I feel sorry for the troops. I remember the appearance of the first ISAF units in that country in early 2002. Without any delay, NATO started persistently building the Afghan National Army (ANA). I spent almost 15 years in Afghanistan in the field of military-technical cooperation alone and took direct part in the Afghan army's development, and I can spot the difference.
I think that NATO is conducting its mission in Afghanistan professionally. The current trouble was easily predictable. The two international missions consist of 60,000, which is obviously not enough to destroy al-Qaeda commandos, guarantee reliable stability in the entire country, and actively contribute to the recovery effort.
However, both NATO and the United States repeated the Soviet mistake in Afghanistan by carrying out missions that should be fulfilled by the Afghans themselves. They planned a 70,000-strong ANA, which is not adequate at all. Now they are talking about 120,000 and even more, but the time has been lost.
Meanwhile, the current Russian Ambassador Zamir Zakirov emphasized many times that stability in Afghanistan directly depends on its army and that its strength was obviously inadequate.
Now the United States and NATO will probably change their attitude to Russia's Afghan experience and advice. After all, cooperation with Moscow on Afghanistan should not be limited to the transit of NATO cargoes through Russian territory.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.