What Taliban hotel attack says about NZ military involvement

It will be a difficult time for the families of

NZSAS soldiers injured in Afghanistan

and my sympathy goes out to them as they wait for updates on the medical situation of their loved ones.

On the political level, the Taliban raid on the Intercontinental Hotel underlines the failure of the US-led war in Afghanistan. Rather than weakening the Taliban, the war has allowed them win recruits by presenting themselves as a patriotic force fighting the foreign invader.

Eight Taliban fighters were able to successfully enter what was, at that time, one of the most heavily defended locations in Afghanistan. A large number of governors, mayors and other officials were staying there, prior to a conference on NATO handing over certain responsibilities to the Afghans.

The response of the Afghan police was not inspiring.

Noor Mohammad, who was in the hotel, said

“We heard shooting and we saw the police dropping their weapons and running from the area.” He said: “How can they fight against the Taliban? No way, I don’t trust them at all.”

No wonder the eight Taliban were able to hold out for six and a half hours. Police running away may also explain what I just heard on the radio, that the SAS, who arrived in a “mentoring” role “had no choice but to get involved.”

The Taliban said the three aims of the operation were to disrupt the governor’s conference, sabotage the security transition and deny foreign intelligence officers a safe place to stay in the capital.

The nature of the Taliban attack, against a civilian target, underlines the nasty character of the war. Both sides believe civilians are fair game. The Taliban target governors and the Americans assassinate Taliban civilian leaders.

Kate Clark

of the Kabul-based Afghan Analysts Network has criticised the targeted killings and night raids by American forces, with their many civilian casualties. Even  Afghan president Hamid Karzai  has

harshly criticised

the Americans for air raids that kill innocent people.

It is not a war New Zealand should be involved in. We should be encouraging the talks that have begun between US officials and the Taliban for a negotiated solution. According to a

recent article in Der Spiegel

this is a possibiity with some Taliban leaders showing more willingness.

By the way, the debate over whether New Zealand media should pixilate photos of SAS soldiers involved in the hotel fighting is somewhat irrelevent. These AFP pictures have been published unpixilated around the world, and are readily available on the internet.