Justin Morse, Staff Writer
In recent weeks the war in Afghanistan has come to the forefront in America and around the globe. General McChrystal, commanding general of U.S. & international forces in Afghanistan, has written that the overall situation is “deteriorating”, and that the Taliban has gained the upper hand. Many areas of Afghanistan are not under control of either the Afghan government or coalition forces. The U.S. and coalition forces are engaged in a brutal fight with the Taliban, with the 3-month stretch from July-September proving to be by far the deadliest period of the war with 223 coalition fatalities. As a result of the deteriorating situation, many have begun to call for the U.S. to cut its loses and withdraw from Afghanistan. In a recent public opinion poll 51% of Americans responded that the war is not worth fighting, up 10% from March. All of these developments cause me great concern.
So what is America supposed to do? I don’t pretend to have an easy answer or solution to that problem. There is no silver bullet in Afghanistan that will solve the problems there overnight. However, Gen. McChrystal has proposed a plan that in my opinion has the best chance of succeeding. It includes a troop increase, although how much of one is still under debate. More importantly this plan shifts the focus of our mission from simply hunting down the Taliban and Al Qaeda, to providing protection for the Afghan people in a comprehensive manner. Afghanistan like Iraq is a different kind of war from the conventional style that Americans know. It’s a classic insurgency war where the support and assistance of the local people is the objective. In a recent poll, Afghan citizens put security above any other issue as the most important problem facing Afghanistan. Without security, any political, economic or social solutions to the problems facing Afghanistan will not be successful. Today, there simply are not enough forces in Afghanistan to effectively provide effective security. Therefore I support this increase in forces to coincide with our change in strategy. I think the question of just how many forces will be needed should be left up to Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Petraeus.
I don’t pretend that the solution to all of Afghanistan’s problems is the military. Americans need to realize that we can’t kill our way to victory in that country. Any increase in troops must coincide with a focus on improving education, providing adequate medical care, and helping to grow the Afghan economy. The U.S. needs to put pressure on Afghan President Karzai to reduce the rampant corruption that plagues his government. We also need to increase our efforts to train and develop the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to be able to provide security for their own people. Secretary of State Clinton has spoken recently about increasing the Agency for International Development and other civilian agencies presence in Afghanistan to help with these issues, and I support that effect wholeheartedly. Finally, we must work with the Pakistanis to eliminate the safe havens for the Taliban and Al Qaeda that exist in the Waziristan region so that the Taliban cannot simply pass unhindered across the border.
Vice-President Biden has been reported advocating a smaller presence in Afghanistan with the use of Predator drone strikes and Special Forces in a counter-terrorism effort. I can’t express how much I emphatically disagree with that course. This would not provide adequate security for the Afghan people, and would likely increase accidental civilian bombings to further alienate the population. The Taliban would likely increase their power in the country, bringing the Kabul government to the brink of collapse. President Obama campaigned upon putting the focus on Afghanistan, and now he has the opportunity to do just that. Obama should give Gen. McChrsytal the troops and resources that he needs to succeed. A loss in Afghanistan would be a major recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups. It would also mean a safe haven for those groups to launch attacks against America and other countries in the region. Although this will be a long and difficult fight for our brave men and women in uniform and for the Afghan people, I believe it’s a war worth fighting.