Terrorists are seemingly inviting U.S. forces back into Afghanistan by bombing a major diplomatic area in Kabul, killing at least 80 people and injuring at least 350 others. A powerful car bomb exploded near the Afghan presidential palace during Wednesday morning rush hour. The bombing is one of the deadliest and bloodiest attacks in the long Afghan war, which has killed more than 110,000 people from 2001 through 2016, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute.
The attack comes just a few days into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, indicating that nothing is sacred and that the exhausting war in Afghanistan is getting worse. It may be a message to U.S. President Donald Trump, who recently dropped the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS targets in Afghanistan.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, the Taliban denied responsibility in a statement, according to CNN. The Kabul bombing will most likely reignite the debate in Washington about the need to bring more U.S. troops back to Afghanistan. As of 2017, the international force assisting the Afghans in the brutal war has about 13,000 troops, of whom about 8,400 are U.S. troops.
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Kabul bombing targeted embassies and the presidential palace
The car bomb exploded in one of the busiest areas of Kabul near the Afghan presidential palace and the German Embassy, prompting the embassy to close until further notice.
At the time of the bombing – which was detonated at 8:22 a.m. (local time) – the streets of Kabul were crowded with commuters and women taking their children to school. As the death toll continues to rise, the Kabul bombing has sparked a furor in the international community, with many world leaders condemning it. The blast also indicates that the fight against terrorists in the Middle East is spiraling out of control, as ISIS carried out a similar attack on an ice cream shop in Baghdad less than 24 hours before.
ISIS has not yet officially claimed responsibility for the attack, though many publications report that it has; the militant group is known for attacking major diplomatic areas. On March 8, an ISIS gunman stormed a military hospital near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, killing more than 30 people. In July 2016, ISIS killed more than 80 people by detonating two suicide bombs at a demonstration near the Afghan parliament in Kabul.
The May 31 Kabul bombing is by far one of the deadliest in recent years, as it was detonated outside the offices of a major local cellphone company and a popular TV station. The explosion hit about 400 yards from the German Embassy and near the Pakistani Embassy, with some Pakistani diplomats and staff suffering minor injuries. The BBC, meanwhile, confirmed the deaths of four of its own journalists and an Afghan driver who with them. The French embassy was also damaged in the blast.
How many U.S. troops could be sent to Afghanistan?
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy told CNN that the embassy did “not appear to have been the target of the blast.” However, some believe that the Kabul blast could be a direct response to Trump for dropping the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS targets last month. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for killing eight people when a car bomb targeting a convoy of foreign troops exploded just outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has reignited the debate over the need to deploy more U.S. troops to the war-torn country despite years of troop withdrawals initiated by former U.S. President Barack Obama. After the May 3 attack targeting foreign troops near the U.S. Embassy, U.S. military officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon was considering sending more troops to Afghanistan.
The May 31 Kabul bombing could only speed up the process of sending more troops to the war-torn country, which has hosted U.S. troops for nearly 16 years now. The U.S. troops are assisting the Afghan government and coalition allies with eliminating several terror groups, including the Taliban and ISIS, though the two groups remain extremely active and dangerous in the country.
Could more U.S. troops in Afghanistan solve the problem?
Earlier this month, The New York Times cited an American official who revealed that 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be sent to Afghanistan to tackle the rising terror threat in the war-torn country.
The U.S. troops to be sent by Trump into Afghanistan could also consist of more conventional soldiers who would team up with NATO troops on the mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan army in battling terrorist groups. The majority of the 8,400 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan are responsible for training and advising Afghan soldiers.
Sending more U.S. troops into Afghanistan is becoming more likely as the Kabul bombing comes less than 24 hours after a similar car bombing by ISIS killed 38 people in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Many see the two bombings as signals that NATO’s fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East is becoming less effective.
As President Trump is reportedly considering whether or not to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, political commentator Marwa Osman told RT that the deadly Kabul blast might be a retaliation for the “mother of all bombs” dropped by the U.S. last month. Mrs. Osmanlso argues that a the Kabul bombing could become “the green light” for the Pentagon to bring back more troops to the war-torn country.
Afghanistan “has been war-torn for the past 30 years because of the US involvement to begin with,” Mrs. Osman argues. She added that Trump is likely to ask his NATO allies to step up their military presence in Afghanistan to counter the rising terrorist threat in the country. But could an increased military presence by NATO and the U.S. in Afghanistan really solve the problem? There’s certainly no easy answer.