The three soldiers killed on Tuesday were not identified, in line with American policy to wait until 24 hours after the next of kin are notified, but they were believed to be part of a Special Forces unit fighting the Taliban in Ghazni Province. The military said the four Americans who were wounded in the explosion were evacuated for medical treatment.
It was the worst attack on American troops in Afghanistan this year. It brings to 13 the number of service members who have been killed in 2018, many of them in insider attacks blamed on infiltrators or turncoats among allied Afghan military forces. In August, a suicide bomber killed three Czech soldiers as they patrolled near the Bagram military base.
As recently as 2013, the U.S. had over 100 military casualties – and the total was almost 500 in 2010.
The war began weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, and the American death toll has exceeded 2,200. President Donald Trump decided last year to remain committed to Afghanistan, and about 15,000 U.S. troops serve largely in a support role for Afghan security forces.
While few Americans support an unending war in Afghanistan, many worry a hasty withdrawal would have horrible consequences for average Afghan citizens. In an editorial commemorating the September 11 attacks, the Editorial Board of USA Today argued that the U.S. must protect the hard-won and deeply unstable civil rights of Afghan citizens.
There is no longer talk of winning, but much can still be lost. Taliban elements remain inextricably linked to al-Qaeda, perpetuating the risk that Afghanistan could again become a launching pad for terrorist attacks.
Beyond the premium of U.S. self-interest are the limited social gains promised and achieved, particularly for hundreds of thousands of Afghan girls who once had no future. A modest third of girls ages 12-15 now go to school. "These are terrible numbers, but they would be much worse under a Taliban-controlled government," says Heather Barr, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher on women's issues.
After considering everything from a pullout to an unsound plan to privatize the war, Trump last year took a strong stand to show that the United States will not allow the Taliban to reclaim power. Peace talks appear underway. This is no time to quit.
The soldiers killed at the end of November were part of a force sent in to reclaim the region of Ghazni, a largely peaceful area recently overrun by the Taliban. According to the Washington Post, the citizens of Ghazni had, until this point, enjoyed a larger degree of freedom than others in Afghanistan. They were forced to flee their homes as the Taliban's attacks intensified.
Until now, Shiite Hazara communities in Ghazni had remained untouched. But as the Taliban, a mainly Pashtun and Sunni militant group, has expanded its territory across the country — leaving just 55 percent of Afghan districts under government control or influence — it has launched daring attacks to seize control of Hazara and Shiite strongholds in central Afghanistan.
The Hazara, the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, suffered persecution by successive Pashtun-led regimes, including the Taliban, which executed them en masse. With the fall of the Taliban came opportunities for education and jobs for the minority group.
U.S. soldiers have an obligation to remain in the country to protect the livelihoods of the people from such persecution.
While he has not followed through on campaign promises to immediately end all U.S. troop involvement in Afghanistan, President Trump has made his disdain for the war well known.
After the recent deaths, many lawmakers stated in no uncertain terms their feeling that it's time for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan.
Daniel R. DePetris, a fellow at Defense Priorities, wrote in a letter to the Washington Post that concerns over rising Taliban power were not enough to justify remaining in Afghanistan.
While concerns about a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are understandable, they are far outweighed by the considerable manpower, time, taxpayer money and opportunity costs the United States would need to expend to prevent it. To believe the Taliban wouldn’t think twice before again hosting transnational terrorists is far-fetched: The group lost its control of Afghanistan because of it. Indeed, in the years since, Taliban officials have openly regretted their past association with al-Qaeda.
The United States was morally and legally justified to intervene in Afghanistan after 9/11. Al-Qaeda deserved nothing less than destruction. But the United States accomplished that objective in the opening months of the war. It has the intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capacity to monitor and combat the threat of transnational terrorism without distracting itself with another decade of nation-building and deploying yet another generation of Americans into a decades-long Afghan civil war.