Most have confidence in the ability of the United States to meet its primary goals of defeating the Taliban, facilitating economic development, and molding an honest and effective Afghan government, but few say Thursday's elections there are likely to produce such a government.
I've just read the latest WaPo article on the decreasing support for our efforts in Afghanistan and I find it disturbing. Unlike Iraq, I supported the assault on the Taliban government when they gave safe haven to Bin Murderer and am glad that we dumped that regime.
I find it disturbing that there is now a majority (according to the WaPo poll, anyway) that now think the war there is no longer worth fighting and that we shouldn't send more troops there. It's a sentiment that I can understand and sympathize with at the gut level... I'd prefer our troops spend more time defending our borders and less time in foreign nations - especially those that don't need our "protection"... Germany, for one.
But if you think for just a moment with your head, rather than your emotions, does anyone think the Taliban will not surge over the country again if we were'nt there? And if they did do that, does anyone think the current government has the forces to resist an overthrow? And if Karzai (or whoever the next President is, if there's a surprise winner) is deposed and the Taliban reinstitute their regime, does any of us think that the first think they won't do will be to welcome Al Qaeda back again?
We went in there and toppled a regime for a very specific reason - one which I believe the United States was completely justified in doing. We can't allow the Taliban to "rack up a win" by re-taking control of the nation. And that means we need to (1) increase troops - especially special forces - and give them the mandate to hunt down and eliminate Taliban cells. And, just as importantly (and we're not good at this, I'll admit) we need to send in more engineers, construction personnel, expert advisors in law enforcement, and - yes - money to build and protect infrastructure. The Afghans need to know that their lives are better by receiving things like roads, schools, hospitals and fresh water in the cities.
Afghanistan is a huge nation and we won't be able to do these things everywhere at once. But, we can pick three of the largest cities and make them the "showcases" for what the country as a whole has to gain by allying with the United States against the regressive former regime members. We also need to encourage employment in the country by putting the people to work on these projects for real wages. I think many of the Taliban's current support is really due more to (1) fear and two (2) economic despair.
One can only be overcome through military strength and publicly touted wins against the insurgent force and the other can only be overcome by providing a way to earn money for their families.
Are we winning or losing this fight in the country? My opinion is neither - the picture isn't rosy enough to say we're winning, but it isn't nearly bleak enough to state we're losing. Instead we seem to be in a bit of a quagmire with the outcome taking two steps forward and then two steps back. We need a bold intiative and some "thinking outside the box" which again, isn't a strongsuit among our elected officials. But, I think it's too soon to withdraw and have it be spun as anything but a retreat.
"These colors don't run", remember that Patriots? We need a shakeup in strategy (we need to be a lot more aggressive and deadly in our pursuit of the Taliban in the Southern Regions for one), but what we really don't need is to wash our hands of what we justifiably started.
What the commentariat class has to say:
Hot Air: is more interested in another opportunity to slam Obama and the left, rather than address the conditions in Afghanistan: It's the typical Conservative tact these days - don't bother talking about options or ideas... instead just continue ranting.
Matt Yglesias: a progressive left blogger, is concerned that the focus of the war is drifting too far into Counter-Insurgency rather than Counter-Terrorism which are two differing things. My only comment here is that there is no mention by him on nation-building, which we were going to be stuck doing as soon as we marched into Afghanistan. Like I've said, we were justified in doing so, but rebuilding the country should have always been upper most in our minds... we didn't allow Japan or Germany to devolve when we defeated those places in WWII and we can't allow it to happen here (although, just how far Afghanistan could devolve is a question).
Foreign Policy: has an interesting post by Stephen Walt who argues that my very point that if we just left, we'd be opening the door for al Qaeda to once again have a stronghold is not necessarily true. In fact, he argues, that we've conflated the views of extremist groups to views of the Taliban and in fact, that the Taliban has already learned a valuable lesson about providing 'safe harbors' to a group the U.S. has declared war on. I don't believe his rationale, but I do respect his ideas and he argues them well.
Foreign Policy, also: Now, here's something I'd like to see far more often. Opposing views posted on a central topic at the same website. In this post at PF, Peter Bergen tells Stephen Walt he's being a bit unrealisitic. I have to say that I'm completely onboard with Mr. Bergen's reasoning over his fellow blogger, but I think both men make reasoned arguments.
If you want to read two well articulated, reasoned views I'd skip H.A. and M.Y. and read the two FP posts.
Regardless of our next step in the conflict, God bless and comfort our troops.