KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents beheaded 17 people at a party in a Taliban-controlled area, and an Afghan soldier killed two U.S. troops, bringing the two-day death toll Monday to about 30.
Near-daily attacks by militants and increasingly frequent deadly violence against NATO troops by their Afghan allies highlight an embarrassing failure of Western policy: After nearly 12 years of military intervention, the country is not pacified. Once the United States and other countries pull out their troops, chaos seems almost certain to return and Taliban domination in large parts of the country is hardly implausible.
The beheadings occurred in Helmand, the same province where more than 100 insurgents attacked an Afghan army checkpoint and killed 10 soldiers.
Helmand was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's surge, when he ordered 33,000 additional U.S troops to Afghanistan to help the military with a counterinsurgency plan. That plan hoped to turn the tide in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar and establish the governmental institutions that would allow the Afghan government to take control of the Taliban heartland.
Two years later, however, Helmand is still so lawless that Afghan government officials couldn't even go to the Taliban-controlled town where the beheadings were reported. Many Afghans in the south, the Taliban's birthplace and the home of the country's Pashtun speaking population, are leery of a government that many consider to be corrupt and ineffective.
The problem is compounded by a rapid reduction in American and international aid, which fueled most of the growth in the south in recent years.