Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Losing in Afghanistan

Not only are we losing in Iraq but now it appears that the United States will lose in Afghanistan. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor (emphasis added) :

In a CFR Q&A on the Taliban, Chistopher Langdon, a defense expert at the Institute for International Strategic Studies, describes the group as "an insurgent organization that will periodically use terrorism to carry out its operations."

According to Kathy Gannon, the former Associated Press bureau chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, these [Taliban] have at times aligned themselves with Al Qaeda fighters and with mujahadeen (holy warriors) led by the anti-government warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. During the Soviet occupation, Hekmatyar received more support from US and Pakistani agents than any other fighter. "The Afghan Taliban is better organized today than it was in 2001," says Gannon, "they have more recruits [and they] have been able to take advantage of the lawlessness, the criminal gangs, and the corruption in the government."

Langton says Taliban forces "have largely recovered from their initial defeat," and are proving a savvy enemy for coalition forces. Taliban fighters have become encouraged by the domestic opposition some NATO nations face as they deploy in former Taliban strongholds previously patrolled by US forces, he says. "They are very adept at reading these signals and seeing where the weaknesses lie."
And in The New York Times:

"The Taliban and Al Qaeda are everywhere," a shopkeeper, Haji Saifullah, told the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, as the general strolled through the bazaar of this town to talk to people. "It is all right in the city, but if you go outside the city, they are everywhere, and the people have to support them. They have no choice."

The fact that American troops are pulling out of southern Afghanistan in the coming months, and handing matters over to NATO peacekeepers, who have repeatedly stated that they are not going to fight terrorists, has given a lift to the insurgents, and increased the fears of Afghans.
Although some on the Left opposed the war in Afghanistan, I have always believed that after 9/11 we had no choice. What we should have done, however, was send a much larger armed force, destroyed the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and captured or killed Osama bin Laden. Following that, we should have spent vast sums of money to make Afghanistan a showcase state. The Bush administration, however, had other plans: Iraq (and next, I fear, Iran.) As a result, we are facing a Taliban resurgence.


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