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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Remember Afghanistan And Offer Hope to Iraq

Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not have much luck several weeks ago in urging the United States to remember Afghanistan as it entered a new war. Karzai's message should be echoing around Washington now, however, after the weekend killings of two U.S. soldiers in battles in Afghanistan and the targeted slaying of an engineer with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The United States cannot be seen as abandoning its commitment to the nation where al-Qaida flourished and the Taliban still has support.

In February, a statement supposedly from fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar urged war against Karzai's administration. Last week, a Taliban military commander promised continued fighting until U.S. forces were expelled. Those threats, and the lethal attacks on Westerners, should prompt U.S. military leaders to consider bringing in a few thousand more troops to prevent a creeping new war in Afghanistan, sponsored by warlords hostile to Karzai and closely tied to the Taliban.

The two servicemen were on a reconnaissance patrol when they were ambushed Saturday not far from Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold. They were the first Americans killed in action since late December, although U.S. troops still come under attack regularly.

International aid organizations had warned recently that some areas were too unsafe for them to work, jeopardizing delivery of urgently needed food and medicine. In Thursday's shooting of the Red Cross member, a citizen of El Salvador and Switzerland, the Afghan Red Cross workers in the two-car convoy were spared. The killing heightened fear among the international groups. The Red Cross, with more than 1,600 workers in Afghanistan, said it was suspending fieldwork indefinitely.

On Sunday, the multinational peacekeeping force in Kabul weathered attacks on its headquarters and main troop base, being hit by rockets with greater accuracy and distance than previously seen. The nearly 5,000 peacekeepers from 22 nations have made the Afghan capital relatively peaceful. The force should have been dispatched to other cities more than a year ago; doing so now would increase security in areas outside Kabul and make it easier for aid groups to help the Afghans, even as U.S. forces fight Taliban remnants.

Afghanistan has progressed enormously since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban and al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. But the vast expanses of the country need more attention so rebuilding can take place. Iraq too will need rebuilding at war's end; doing a better job in Afghanistan would offer hope to Iraqis that the United States will not forget the nation after it ends the bombing.

This comment appeared as an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.