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Panetta sizes up Afghan anger

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The unannounced visit by United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to Kabul today [14 March 2012] marks a growing awareness in the western capitals that the NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan is becoming untenable. The dreadful killing of 16 Afghans by a US soldier has altered the calculus beyond recognition.

The mood in Europe is also changing. Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a surprise visit to Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday to meet the German troops. Merkel insisted, “The will is there, we want to succeed.” But German press is not convinced. The conservative Die Welt wrote: “Even the goal of a strategic partnership between Washington and Kabul is uncertain. Obama plans to keep small contingents of troops in the country. But… there is the risk that that a situation will develop like the one in Iraq, where the country rejected American plans to maintain a military presence.”

The Financial Times Deutschland was more to the point: “The limit of tolerance has been reached, the parliament in Kabul declared, and President Hamid Karzai spoke of an ‘unforgivable crime.’ These are signs that the relationship between the US and Afghanistan is more damaged than ever. It is possible that it can no longer even be repaired…”

British PM David Cameron who arrived in Washington last night on a visit which will focus on Afghanistan, also struck a sombre tone: “I think people want an endgame. They want to know that our troops are going to come home, they have been there a very long time.” The New York Times reported that Washington is debating the option of “speeding” the Afghan pullout.

By the way, Associated Press news agency just put out a chilling story that before Panetta came into the hall in Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan earlier today to talk to the troops, the Afghan troops were told not to bring their guns in, because, as a sergeant-major put it, “Something has come to light.” In the event, the more than 200 US Marines in the room were also asked to take their weapons outside and leave them there. Nothing could capture more vividly the state of the NATO’s war in Afghanistan.

Panetta is going to hear some blunt talk by his Afghan interlocutors. Even moderate voices are trembling with anger. Read the interview with the former Afghan prime minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai who was a prominent Mujahideen leader and close associate of late Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Source: Indian Punchline

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