AFP/Getty Images: The remains of a birthday cake following a guns-and-rocket attack on the Spozhmai Hotel last week.
A couple of further thoughts on the Taliban assault on Afghans staying at a hotel near Kabul last week.
My e-pal the Marine Mom sent along a string of pictures taken in the aftermath of the attack, which killed 18 civilians at the hotel, a spartan-looking place furnished cheaply and sparingly, perched picturesquely on the side of a large reservoir.
Many of the pictures are extremely grisly, capturing the dead where they fell under bushes, in hotel common rooms. They are reminiscent of photos taken in the aftermath of Mumbai in 2009. A couple of the photos, however, tell a different part of the the story, conjuring up the interupted life of Afghans on holiday before the assault. These remind us of the human toll, which shouldn't be lost in the incident's exploitation for ignoble political reasons.
The partly eaten birthday cake (above), forlorn on a plate, needs no explanation. But here's what my e-pal made of this damaged and jumbled refrigerator case of cold drinks.
She writes: I see this picture and just see a fine representation of COIN. We can't even 'convince' the Taliban or insurgents or win their hearts and minds. We might be able to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans, for example, who were at this restaurant/hotel/resort to have a picnic and a cold Coca Cola at the lake with their family, but even if we did win their hearts and minds (which I don't think we did), what matter would it make if the US & NATO leave, and those whose hearts and minds have been "won" are slaughtered like in this hotel attack? Or, in their villages?
I would add something else: The very fact that nearly a decade after US forces arrived in Afghanistan -- a decade of similar Taliban assaults on civilian life -- we are still competing with the Taliban for "Afghan hearts and minds" -- for Afghan "trust," as COINdinistats usually prefer -- underscores the bankrupt futility of the whole COIN strategy.