Afghan Road Rage

Sunday, August 13, 2006

After a spring and summer of bloody clashes with a resurgent Taliban, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have learned the hard way that their presence is sometimes backfiring among Afghan civilians. When a U.S. military vehicle caused a fatal traffic accident in Kabul on May 29, resentment erupted into the deadliest rioting the city has witnessed in years. Indeed, U.S. troops have earned a reputation as "negligent, offensive, rude, callous, occupiers, hostile, disrespectful . . . you get the point." That description is found in the memo below by a senior sergeant in Afghanistan, signaling that the Army is thinking seriously about how to operate differently -- and more effectively -- in its counterinsurgency efforts. The document has been widely circulated among the U.S. military not only in Afghanistan but also at the Pentagon; on July 18 it was e-mailed to all Army generals.

-- Thomas E. Ricks

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