UPDATED***- As predicted, this story has been changing – http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/story-state-dept-employees-death-afghanistan-changes_716284.html
Anne Smedinghoff, a U.S. State Dept. foreign service officer, was killed along with several other Americans in a suicide car bombing attack in Afghanistan. She becomes the 2nd U.S. Diplomat to die on-duty in under 7 months along with the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. There had been no deaths in violent attacks on U.S. Diplomats since 1979 prior to these murders.
According to the State Dept. website, this was Smedinghoff’s duty.
The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in Zabul and said the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the governor.
“We were waiting for one of them,” Ahmadi said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It was our good luck that both appeared at the same time.”
Here is where some confusion enters. Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the Zabul attack according to the AP story. Yet in another news account of the attempt on the Afghan Governor’s life, it claimed the attack was in Qalat and made no mention of the attack on the U.S. convoy.
The governor of Zabul province Saturday survived an apparent assassination attempt by a suicide bomber, but one other person has been killed and another injured, local officials said.
The incident took place in Qalat, the provincial capital of Zabul, at about 11:00am local time.
A suicide bomber in a car detonated his explosive-rigged vehicle near a hospital in Qalat while the convoy of the governor Sayed Ashraf Nasiri was passing by, provincial police chief Ghulaam Sakhi said.
“A doctor was killed in the area and a security guard of the governor was injured in the attack,” he said.
The U.S. military account of the story doesn’t help to clear up the confusion.
Officials said the suicide car bomber struck just as a coalition convoy drove past a caravan of vehicles carrying the governor of Zabul to the same event.
Another American civilian was killed in a separate insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said in a statement.
As always, getting the facts straight in the aftermath of an event is not always accurate. I only wish to point out these inconsistencies in reporting as we still haven’t received an accurate portrayal of the events surrounding the Benghazi, Libya attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.
The Taliban account seems to validate the idea that they attacked both the Afghan Governor and the U.S. convoy carrying Smedinhoff simultaneously with a single suicide car bomber. The Afghan news accounts state that the Governor was attacked separately in Qalat and make no mention of the U.S. convoy attack at all. The U.S. military statement supports that story.
So which is accurate? Clearly, we don’t know yet. Was it just a coincidental incident involving Americans or were they targeted? Certainly makes a difference in the politics of the coalition drawdown scheduled to end in 2014. It also makes a difference in the size of the U.S. presence that will stay on afterward. An unstable environment and a strengthening Taliban presence will only serve to justify a greater long-term U.S. commitment.
Spellchek has posted many times on the reasons the U.S. stays in Afghanistan. Obama is juggling several different interests in the outcome of the Afghanistan occupation (we never declared war). The fact is that the U.S. will continue to have a strategic interest in the entire Caspian Sea region for energy access after the 2014 pullout. These types of attacks attributed to the Taliban give credence to a stronger U.S. presence after 2014.
I would watch any accounting of the “facts” in Afghanistan with a wary eye.