US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who once upheld Afghanistan as a success story in the war on terror, acknowledged on Saturday that progress toward building a stable democratic society in that country was not all encouraging.
"Not all the news about Afghanistan is encouraging," Rumsfeld wrote in an essay in The Washington Post. "There is, for example, the legitimate worry that increased poppy production could be a destabilizing factor. And rising violence in southern Afghanistan is real."
The remarks came as a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-filled car near a NATO convoy in eastern Afghanistan, causing minor damage to a vehicle, police and the force said.
The blast near the city of Khost was the first suicide attack on foreign troops in the east of the country since they came under the command of the International Security Assistance Force three days ago.
The attack was similar to more than 90 other suicide blasts in Afghanistan this year linked to an insurgency by the extremist Taliban that was ousted from government in a US-led offensive launched five years ago.
"During the active combat or conventional phase of any war, there are clear signs of progress: battles won, key strategic points taken, enemy forces captured or killed," the defense secretary opined. "In the post-battle phase, however, the measure of progress is not as clear — especially in a war such as the global war on terror, which relies so heavily on the development of civic institutions in places that have known little more than war and destitution."