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Modern-day Tet Offensive?

photo: NY Times

On January 31st, 1968, the National Liberation Front (the Vietnamese Communists) launched a debilitating series of attacks against the Americans and the South Vietnamese puppet government. More than 80,000 Viet Cong attacked more than 100 towns and cities, including Saigon. At that time, this event became the largest military operation in the war. The campaign’s purpose was to show the ability of the VC to launch an attack on a massive scale supported both implicitly and explicitly by much of the Vietnamese population. Many experts see this event as a major turning point in the Vietnam war: the moment in which America realized exactly who it was up against.

Flash forward to 2010: On January 18th, Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, was paralyzed by a wide-scale Taliban attack.  Suicide bombers, including one driving an ambulance, were able to breach all forms of security and get as far into the city as President Karzai’s presidential palace. This bold operation has succeeded in spreading fear and hopelessness. Most of the time, fighting with insurgents is limited to the countryside, where most American military outposts are located. A Taliban representative stated the purpose of the attack was to “answer American and Afghan proposals to ‘reconcile’ with and ‘reintegrate’ Taliban fighters into mainstream society”.

At a time when President Obama is sending more troops to stabilize the country, I wonder if there is a solution to this quagmire. The surge in Iraq depended heavily on buying off local warlords and insurgents. With the Taliban unlikely to cooperate and the Karzai’s increasing unpopularity and illegitimacy, what are we even hoping for?

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