Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Afghanistan: A Problem without a Solution?

During the past six months, I have read numerous articles and watched television news stories about what is happening in the war in Afghanistan. Last night, On 60 Minutes, I saw evidence that we are fighting a war with no end in sight. CBS correspondent, Lara Logan was embedded with troops of the 101st Airborne in areas of Afghanistan immediately adjacent to Pakistan. She exhibited bravery that few people associate with correspondence these days.

Ms. Logan didn't just talk to the troops about the conditions they were confronting. She went on a mission with a captain in the 101st airborne that showed the intensity of fighting at this front line position. When the American soldiers arrived at the small native village, the chief of the village showed no inclination to talk or work with the captain. On the return mission, the unit came under heavy fire and the captain demonstrated an incredible indifference to bullets whizzing by him as he tried to extricate a truck stuck in the rocky terrain. The captain described an endless supply of soldiers coming in from Pakistan. No matter how many his men killed, more of the enemy pour across the border. He described the non-Afghani soldiers as well trained and willing to die. The captain's efforts to win over small isolated villages were meeting with little success. If the villagers cooperate with us, they are dead the next time that the Taliban enter their town.

The type of combat situation we saw on 60 minutes goes far beyond "Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People." General Pertraeus, who had much more success in Iraq, assured the president and the American people that with additional soldiers the country could be stabilized under what passes for Democratic leadership in that country. Please note I didn't say, "Win." Unless we find a way to seal off the border with Pakistan the war with the Taliban will go on forever. Is this another Vietnam, where no matter how many soldiers we pour into the country the fight continues to rage?

Recent polling has shown that the majority of Americans have now decided they are not in favor of our efforts in Afghanistan. However, there is still staunch support for our continued presence in that country as evidenced by the headline in the September 28, 2010 Christian Science Monitor.
Afghanistan war: Is the US in it to win it? America's engagement in Afghanistan remains vital. Now is the time to renew our resolve and pursue our broad-based strategy, not look for an exit."
The article written by Kurt Volcker cites General Pertraeus statement, "We are in this to win." With the corrupt government in Kabul and a continual supply of soldiers crossing the border from Pakistan, the question must be raised as to whether it is possible to actually "win." At the same time, it is obvious that if we pull out of Afghanistan, or withdraw to the major cities, the Taliban will take over most of the country and Al Qaeda will have a training ground for far more terrorists than it had in 2001 when we first invaded the country. I don't pretend to have a solution. The question is whether the administration, or anyone in this country (Republicans included), has one.

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