Events in Egypt have taken center stage in global news coverage, displacing developments in Afghanistan in what amounts to a mixed blessing for the Obama administration. For while critics have taken the White House to task for its approach on Egypt, particularly over its mixed messages and lack of a unified response, they have paid less attention to the recent string of Taliban bombings in Kandahar -- and the potential implications for the administration's war strategy.
The attacks killed the province's deputy governor, Abdul Latif Ashna, and targeted the home of Kandahar's police chief, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, who was not killed or injured. They are also focusing on government officials throughout the southern part of the country -- with Bak district's acting chief, Sayed Mohammad, assassinated earlier this week -- as part of an attempt to disrupt the Afghan government's efforts to staff itself in these volatile regions.
Even before this recent wave of attacks, the government was having difficulty in building a more effective presence. Last October, Hajji Mohammed Anis, the provincial chief executive, lamented that he was unable to fill more than 600 government positions. In many areas, the only government presence is a district chief and a police chief, meaning that other services -- including health care, education and dispute resolution -- cannot be provided. In addition, with some 600 government officials, village elders and aid workers having been killed in the past nine years, the Taliban's campaign of targeted intimidation is having an impact, as people are less and less inclined to join the government.