By Arthur I. Cyr
Over the past several weeks, Taliban attacks have markedly increased. At least a dozen strikes have occurred, many in capital Kabul, with foreigners clearly priority targets. So far this year, 36 aid workers have been killed and 95 wounded. The attacks obviously are designed to demonstrate insurgent strength, but they occur in the wider context of national political progress. Afghanistan has carried out a peaceful effective transition in power, crucial to any viable democracy. Initial and runoff presidential elections were held in April and June. Turnout was high, despite Taliban intimidation and violence. The national election commission testified that corruption was much reduced from the 2009 presidential election. The U.N. did a careful audit of votes cast. World Bank veteran Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was victorious from a field of eight candidates. He vowed to continue security cooperation with the U.S., and in September a new agreement was signed, to continue the partnership beyond 2014.
Previous President Hamid Karzai was a durable survivor but had become increasingly erratic. Late in his tenure, he denounced the security partnership with the U.S. This occurred despite the fact that he was the recipient of sizable regular cash payments from the CIA. During the election, the Taliban mounted hundreds of attacks but no major government installations were struck. By contrast, in June 2013 Afghanistan rebels detonated a car bomb and battled security forces in front of the presidential palace, the most heavily guarded installation in the country. Penetrating that security apparatus was a major success. Long-term, institutional ties between Afghanistan and the U.S. have strengthened. In a July 2012 visit to Kabul, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Afghanistan and the U.S. have become formal allies. This relationship goes beyond the long-term but limited multilateral effort to stabilize the nation, under United Nations and NATO authority.