It was reported that for the first time in several years, there were no US fatalities in Afghanistan during the month of March. While that statement may be true, it is also misleading. And, for anyone to believe the lack of US casualties in Afghanistan during the month of March will be replicated in April, think again.
March was an interesting month in Afghanistan. Everyone and their mother was preparing for the elections to unfold in country—local and Presidential. When I say everyone, I am including not just the Afghan government and the Coalition Force but also the enemy such as the Taliban, HiG, LeT, etc.
Make no mistake though that there were US casualties in March that came from the Afghan War. Approximately 22 veterans and one active duty person takes his or her own life each day. To be more precise, since the start of the New Year, it has been estimated that over 1,800 veterans took their own life—that’s 60 per month. How many of them were veterans from the Afghan War?
Let’s not down play the reality of America’s longest and potentially most controversial war known as the Afghan War. People who have served in country have died and many have succumbed to the aftermath from the mental anguish inevitably leading to suicide.
Whether US persons were killed in Afghanistan during the month of March is for the most part irrelevant. Yes, it is wonderful hearing we did not lose another son, daughter, mother, or father, etc. But reality is, violence in country is at an uptick. While US casualties may be down, for now, there are indeed casualties every day.
According to sources working “outside the wire,” the Taliban are “whacking their own older commanders and replacing them with younger, more radical, violent ones.” Apparently the current infighting within the Taliban and other opposition ranks stems from preparation for the next surge of insurgency offensives.
Taliban forces killed 10 civilians in Boghavi in the past 24 hours, 5 of them were beheaded. There was a 6 year old among the beheaded. Again, do not think for a second that violence is down in Afghanistan.
There is a massive intimidation campaign unfolding in many villages where not only is local elderly Taliban leaders getting assassinated, but in the process, persons who side with same to include women and children are being put to their deaths as well.
How would any military leader know this if they are keeping troops tucked deep inside the wire preparing for the withdrawal as promised by our President? Without troops outside the wire, military intelligence is flawed and atmospherics become minimalized. Then again, maybe this is why, during the month of March, we witnessed no US casualties in country.
March will not be the same as April however. Violence will likely saturate the country with more assassinations and the targeted killings of the limited amount of US and Coalition forces that do go “outside the wire.” How can we be so certain? Look at the frontrunner in the current Afghan Presidential Election.
Ashraf Ghani ran in the last Presidential election and did not fare well. But something happened and changed his current future status as the next possible President of Afghanistan. His name has traveled well throughout the country and today has the greatest chance of winning the election.
To show his support, here is a partial list of rally’s which unfolded in country supporting Ashraf Ghani:
Kunduz rally- 250,000 participants, Gardez 100,000 participants, Kabul suburb, 2,000 participants, Logar 55,000 participants, Takhar 70,000 participants, Paktia 150,000 participants, Jalalabad Olympic Stadium 70,000 participants.
These numbers far outweigh any of Ashraf Ghani’s opponents. More interesting is the fact it appears as though he has the full support of Abdul Rashid Dostum which is a big deal for many Afghans. The two were supposed to campaign together in Sharbarghan, Jozdan in Regional Command North however due to poor weather the rally was postponed twice.
While President Karzai does not favor Ghani and instead appears to side more with Zalmai Rassoul, Karzai may not really matter. Ghani has the full support of the 10,000 tribal elders founded in the Eastern Shura.
What does this really mean for April and forecasted violence in Afghanistan? Considering Ashraf Ghani already has an assassination threat against him, if he is killed, the powerful east and north of Afghanistan will crumble quickly. Those who vow to support Ghani will more than likely take up arms in frustrated outrage which includes potential actions against Karzai and the Coalition considering many of Ghani’s followers already dislike Karzai and fail to trust him.
Put the pieces of the puzzle together for a moment. Ghani wins the election but is quickly assassinated or worse, he gets assassinated before the election results come forth. Karzai, or his camp, appears to have something to do with the death of Ghani. The United States placed Karzai into power. Karzai and the United States becomes the target.
What if Ghani wins and is not assassinated? This scenario becomes even more interesting. But to capture the picture, all one needs to do is replace Karzai and his camp with any of the other Presidential candidates some of which have incredibly close ties to the opium trade and corruption which includes Gul Agha Sherzai.
March looked real nice in Afghanistan but rest assured March is over. A new, or better articulated, not so new, leaf is turning in April. Expect violence to spike in Afghanistan and expect for the worse—more US casualties in country and the continuation of veteran suicides fueled by this prolonged war.