Portrait of boys in Gardez, Afghanistan by Marianne Elliot. A former human rights advocate in Afghanistan, Elliot says the photo reminds her that Afghan children are "full of hope, potential and goodness." Elliot's evocative photographs of Afghanistan currently are on exhibit in Wellington, New Zealand.
France is reeling from the death of ten soldiers ambushed in Afghanistan. The French troops - who recently took control of the Kabul regional command - were involved in a battle that began Monday in Sarobi, about 30 miles from Kabul.
French defense officials told reporters about 100 soldiers - from France, the US and Afghanistan - were on a reconnaissance mission Monday - Afghanistan's Independence Day - when bad road conditions forced them to stop. A group of French soldiers went on foot to check the terrain. Nine were killed by Taleban fighters in "an ambush of extreme violence," French president Nicolas Sarkozy said. A tenth French soldier died when his vehicle overturned on the road.
Another 21 soldiers caught in the ambush were injured by gunfire and shrapnel from shells and rockets. The deaths are thought to be the heaviest loss suffered by the French military since 58 paratroopers were killed in 1983 in Beirut.
An Afghan intelligence officer told the BBC the troops were ambushed from several directions by heavily-armed Taleban and al-Qaeda forces. The fighting continued for 24 hours, with reinforcements called to airlift troops to safety. The deaths came amid warnings that insurgents are closing in on Kabul.
In a brief trip today to Afghanistan, Sarkozy visited the mortuary at the French camp, then talked with injured soldiers involved in the fighting. The soldiers, after receiving emergency treatment, headed home today in a medically-equipped aircraft. They will receive further care at military hospitals near Paris.
Sarkozy also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "The cause is just, it is the honour of France and its armies to defend it," Sarkozy said. Karzai said the deteriorating security situation in the country could be “attributed directly to our lack of attention, the allies and all of us, to the sanctuaries, to the training grounds, to the financial resources, of terrorists and the Taliban."
Brandon Friedman writes in Vet Voice that the war in Iraq--at its most violent peak--was never as dangerous for our troops as Afghanistan now is." In the past ten weeks, three American soldiers have been captured and killed. Nine more American soldiers were killed when their outpost was overrun by Taliban militants. Then on Tuesday, the French soldiers were slaughtered in an ambush. Around the same time, Afghan insurgents launched a coordinated attack on a major U.S. base, Friedman said.
In Khost, south-eastern Afghanistan, up to 30 militants tried to storm an American base, hours after a suicide car bomber struck at the front gate, killing ten civilians working at Camp Salerno. Among the insurgents were suicide bombers, trying to break into the camp and kill as many NATO soldiers as possible. Last week three International Rescue Committee aid workers, along with their Afghan driver, were killed in an ambush in Logar province, south of Kabul.
"The fatality rate in Afghanistan during the past 10 weeks would be equivalent to 353 deaths in Iraq at the same time--a rate not even seen during the bloody crescendo of 2007," Friedman notes. "This is a crisis."
As Thomas Schaller writes in Salon, "While John McCain is busy with offering flashy "Gates of Hell" pledges about bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, Afghanistan is getting out of control -- again."
And all the campaign rhetoric in America can't refute that cold hard fact.