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Worse Than a Powder Keg
Our troops should be out of Afghanistan. Yesterday.

A coalition special-ops service member defends his position in the Sar Kani district of Afghanistan, March 2012. (Clayton Weis/DOD)

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Andrew C. McCarthy

We have met the enemy and we are they. That is certainly the message the Obama administration has conveyed to the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan this week.

Our troops have been the target of serial sneak attacks by the Afghans with whom they are forced to “partner.” Nevertheless, our Marines were ordered to disarm before being admitted into the presence of Obama’s defense secretary, Leon Panetta. Yes, you read that correctly: Our Marines were stripped of their arms.

Panetta was at Camp Leatherneck on a “surprise” visit, hoping to calm the disastrous situation in the combat theater. Turns out not to have been much of a surprise: One of our Afghan “partners” — a contract interpreter hired to help our armed forces in deadly Helmand province — seamlessly converted to Islamist suicide assassin. His contacts clued him in on the surprise, so much so that he managed to speed a stolen truck toward the runway, just as Panetta’s hush-hush flight was about to land. He just missed smashing the contingent of Marines waiting to receive the secretary — that is to say, to whisk the secretary away to safer quarters, if there is any longer such a thing in this hell-hole, where 90,000 American troops are now stationed, compared with the 5,200 who conclusively routed al-Qaeda a decade ago, which you may recall as the mission they were sent to accomplish.

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“We don’t know what his intent was,” the American commander, Army Lieutenant General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, said of the assassin. No, of course not. After all, we wouldn’t want to speculate that perhaps our cherished partnership with the Afghans is an abject failure — over 99 percent of the population being Muslim, steeped in the Wahhabist tradition that inculcates abhorrence of infidel occupiers.

The situation might be called a “powder keg,” except that is what one says in anticipation of a future explosion. In Afghanistan, the explosions are already happening, their pace and ferocity on the rise. Afghans went on a murderous rampage after some Korans were accidentally burned, Korans that jihadists had used to incite each other by adding handwritten messages reaffirming hatred of Americans. Among nearly three dozen killed when the mayhem began were two American soldiers, murdered by a treacherous Afghan “soldier” they were training.

Soon after, two more U.S. officers were shot in the back of the head by Afghan “security” personnel at the interior ministry in Kabul. A few days later, two more American soldiers were killed by Afghan “soldiers” at a base in Kandahar. In fact, our “partners” have turned their guns on scores of our troops in the last five years, killing 70, wounding many more. Those are just the U.S. casualty figures. British forces and other NATO personnel are also being assassinated with regularity.

Still, our forces are expected to trust these faithless partners. Trust them and, at the premeditated cost of American lives, protect Afghan civilians — tribal Islamists rife with Taliban and other terrorist sympathizers. There is a reason al-Qaeda was so comfortable in Afghanistan: It is nigh impossible to know who is a civilian. The Taliban, the Haqqani terror network, and assorted other jihadists do not wear uniforms — the better to blend into the population after doing their bloody business. Yet our troops operate under stifling rules of engagement that quite intentionally prioritize the prevention of civilian casualties over force protection. When under attack, they are denied adequate air cover out of concern, again, about the possibility of harming Afghans.



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