This month, Afghanistan conducted an encouraging presidential election. Iraq, the other nation America became involved in following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will hold national elections Wednesday. In both countries, the U.S. has obligations to the people there and to the U.S. soldiers who fought there (see column on opposite page). In both countries, the actions of ostensible allies weaken what little is left of Americans’ patience and compassion.
In the latest and perhaps most reprehensible of a spate of bloody attacks against foreign civilians in Afghanistan this year, three American doctors were killed by a gunman at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul last Thursday. The gunman, an Afghan government security officer, was wounded in the attack, and the selfless colleagues of the murdered doctors operated on him to save his life. It is unclear if the Taliban was involved, but the group has bragged that the "insider" attacks against civilians and U.S. and NATO soldiers are evidence of its success in infiltrating allied security forces.
The violence at Cure International Hospital took the edge off presidential elections in which the chosen candidate of outgoing president Hamad Karzai took a thumping, an evident expression of Afghani disgust with the corrupt and two-faced leader. Karzai, who probably survived his last presidential election only through vote-rigging, is a phony who has enriched himself and his colleagues while accusing the United States of sympathizing with the Taliban. His refusal to sign a long-term security pact with the United States was the last straw for the overly patient Obama administration.
The apparent winner is former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, a long-time foe of Karzai who would more than likely have won a fair election in 2009. A member of the Northern Alliance movement that fought the Taliban in the 1990s, he is more likely than the weak-willed Karzai was to confront the religious fanatics who terrorize the nation.
The U.S. is finally winding down its long war in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon insists that 10,000 soldiers must remain to prevent the country from collapsing. The disintegration of Afghanistan, like one in Iraq, would render meaningless lost American blood and treasure, but the Cure International attack suggests that attempts to bring and maintain peace in Afghanistan are futile. Afghanistan’s new president will have to make a strong case that keeping a U.S. troop presence will result in progress, not in more bloodshed.