Negative developments in Afghanistan during the past week have painted a gloomy picture of the central Asian country's security outlook, once again demonstrating that the more the United States and its allies try to pull themselves out of the quagmire in Afghanistan, the deeper they find themselves mired in the war against the Taliban.
On April 15, the Afghan Taliban launched a series of attacks in Kabul, the biggest in a decade. Government and military targets in three neighboring provinces also came under attack. According to Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, a total of 47 people were killed and some 65 wounded in Kabul.
The Taliban's spring offensive has revived concerns that after 10 years the US-led NATO forces have yet to deal a fatal blow to the terrorist group. The attacks are ready proof that theTaliban still possesses the capability to strike unexpectedly and bring heavy losses to the Afghan people.
The Taliban was able to infiltrate fighters and arms into the supposedly secure Kabul, without either the Afghan government or the US-led NATO forces learning about the attacks before hand. The show of force by the Taliban, which heralds the beginning of the spring fighting season, has also raised concerns about the readiness of the Afghan National Army and police to assume responsibility for national security after NATO's withdrawal at the end of 2014.
It seems doubtful that the US and NATO forces will be able to weaken the combat capability of the Taliban before they hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces, and whether they do or not they will still leave a big mess in Afghanistan after they withdraw their troops.
This gloomy outlook was darkened still further when the US forces in Afghanistan were hit by another scandal last week. The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday published photos depicting several soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division posing with the remains of Afghan suicide bombers. The anonymous US serviceman who provided the newspaper with the photos said he wanted to highlight "the breakdown in leadership and discipline" that had created a security risk for troops serving in the country.
In a statement released by the Pentagon soon after, US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta strongly rejected the misconduct and said that "anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable" in accordance with the US military justice system.
This is not the first time misconduct by US soldiers in Afghanistan has been exposed. Last month, Sergeant Robert Bales was accused of killing 16 civilians, including women and children, in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The two countries are still reeling from the murders, which have been regarded as one of the worst atrocities committed by US soldiers during the Afghan war. The killings followed reports earlier this year of US soldiers burning the Quran, and a video purportedly showing US marines urinating on corpses of Taliban militants.
The scandals have further eroded the US' image in Afghanistan and driven its popularity to the lowest ebb for years. If the US cannot rein in the behavior of its forces, the increasing anger of the Afghan people alone will make it more difficult to forge effective security cooperation with the Afghan government in the lead up to withdrawal by the end of 2014.
After last month's shooting rampage, the Afghan Taliban has halted its peace negotiations with the US, leaving the allied forces no choice but to resort to more intensive military actions against the terrorist group.
In a final analysis, by launching incessant attacks in Afghan, the Taliban intends to destabilize the security situation in the country, shake the confidence of the Afghan government and the West and put them under its continuous military pressure. Its ultimate goal is to overthrow the Afghan government, drive away foreign forces and regain control in the central Asian country.
The US must be fully aware of the formidable situation in Afghanistan, readjust its strategy and do more to restore its image among the Afghan people.
The author is a writer with China Daily. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org