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article imageOp-Ed: Why Afghanistan Matters

By Johnny Simpson     Sep 22, 2009 in World
The news from Afghanistan lately could not be more unsettling. A resurgent Taliban, rampant government corruption, key ISAF force mistakes, and growing public discontent on all sides. The stakes could not be higher. How do we turn the "Right War" around?
A recent news-making field report by Gen. Stanley McChristol, the Commander of all US and NATO forces in the Afghan theater, lays out in very stark and specific terms the deep-rooted problems in Afghanistan that must be resolved, or the mission could be doomed to failure in as little as a year. The following is a summary of the key points Gen. McChristol laid out in his report to the President.
The Taliban is resurgent, and is now on the brink of attaining power and influence not seen in eight years. The Afghan government is riddled with corruption. US and NATO Armed Forces are alienating the local populations through growing civilian casualties in battles with insurgents. Given the recent wavering of support for the war by the American people and government, Afghanis are becoming even more distrustful of our long-term commitment to them. Many are beginning to align with the Taliban out of pure self-preservation. The Taliban is also using the Afghan prison system to plan and stage terror attacks, a reprise of the old Taliban regime in microcosm.
Lastly, as Gen. McChristol warns, thousands more troops are needed this year, along with a renewed counter-insurgency strategy that re-focuses the conflict from battling insurgents to protecting the locals. Yet American public support for the war is evenly divided, and at its lowest ebb in years. Many pundits and liberal Democrats are even beginning to liken the war to a "quagmire," a catch phrase for the Vietnam War.
Vietnam: Airlift members of the 2nd Battalion
UH-1D helicopters airlift members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment from the Filhol Rubber Plantation area to northeast of Cu Chi, Vietnam.
The National Archives. US Army Photo
Yet Afghanistan is not Vietnam. As devastating as that war was to America, the Ho Chi Minh-led Viet Cong government sought only to consolidate its power in Indochina. The Viet Cong didn't follow us home. Should Afghanistan be recaptured by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, not only will it once again become the terrorist staging ground from which the 9/11 attacks were plotted and launched, the danger exists of a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan expanding its influence over Pakistan a thousandfold, perhaps even to the point of overthrowing the Pakistani government and acquiring access to that nation's considerable nuclear arsenal.
Both outcomes are not only totally unacceptable, they are national suicide for both the Afghan people and America, and would present unprecedented mortal threats to peace, security and stability all across the globe. It has been a long eight bloody years since the devastating 9/11 attacks, the start of war and the ousting of the Mullah Omar Taliban government from Kabul. Today, Gen. McChristol's boots-on-the-ground assessment of the situation seems both accurate and dire, and should be a most alarming wake-up call. So why is the President hesitating to act on Gen. McChristol's recommendations and committing whatever troops are required for the 'Right War"? The only one the President said was worth fighting even to the point of invading Pakistan if necessary to win it, as he stated last year? Do politics now trump national security?
President Obama and Afghan president Karzai
President Barack Obama with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Vice President Joe Biden during a statement in the Grand Foyer of the White House
Lawrence Jackson / White House
We Americans should be greatly disturbed by all this bad news. A lot of things are going terribly wrong in Afghanistan. Yet from these troubling events should arise a new national resolve, not despair and demands for cutting and running. The key difference between the Afghan and Vietnam Wars is that Ho Chi Minh was just happy to drive the French and Americans out in order to consolidate his power on the Vietnamese peninsula. Ho Chi Minh had no real vested interest beyond his borders, or pursuing we Americans to our shores to exact vengeance for the ruination of his country by American forces. The Taliban and Al Qaeda, however, remain no less of a mortal threat than they were throughout the 1990s, during the Sunni Iraqi insurgency, in London, Madrid, Beslan, Moscow, Bali, Mumbai, and too many other terror attacks to mention in the years since 9/11. The recent terror attack plot in New York should be proof enough of that.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda, given the mortal threats they pose to us all, must be fought with the same ferocity, determination and intelligence as we fought the Nazis and the Japanese Empire during World War II. We must never forget, or allow the passage of time to diminish, the horrors perpetrated by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, not only against the Western world but in Afghanistan itself. The terrible oppression and abuse of women, such as the ripping out of painted fingernails with pliers. The hanging of men from goal posts during soccer games, the only time the Taliban allowed the crowds to cheer. The shooting of women in the head below those same hanging men. The horrific beheadings. The ethnic slaughter of the Hazaras.
Taliban Flogging the Young Lady
The source of the footage has not been verified by the BBC.
I know who and what they are, and I know the history. I will not forget. They are as subhuman and evil as the cold-blooded fiends who cranked the machinery of Auschwitz into full gear and made an industry of mass murder. Were I eligible to go back into the military I would sign up in a heartbeat, as I attempted to after 9/11. Though a six-year Veteran I was denied, both because of my age at the time (39), and because recruiting offices were being swarmed as was not seen since the days after Pearl Harbor. I was not needed. Ergo, I am limited to waging this war with words and financial and moral support to the troops as best I can.
We must renew our commitment to fighting this enemy whose evil knows no bounds. Who splash acid in young girls' faces for daring to attend school. Who bomb mosques full of Friday worshipers. Who savage innocents according to a manual recommending horrific tortures not seen since the human abattoirs of Nazi-controlled Europe. The President and our elected leaders must take a stand and recommit our nation to this desperate fight. We must also confront Iran about their supplying of the Taliban with heavy weapons and Iranian EFPs, the devastating explosively-formed projectiles placed into roadside IEDs that have killed hundreds and wounded thousands of American and Allied soldiers in both the Afghan and Iraqi theaters.
The Counterterrorism Blog, the WaPo, the Washington Times and and DJ Paul Wallis have all posted excellent analyses. Should you be disposed as to agree with my assessments, which I base on the facts as I have presented them here, please contact the White House, State, DoD and your elected reps in the House and Senate and speak your mind. As bad as things are now, they could still get a lot worse.
Historically, retreating from the Vietnam War was rather inconsequential regarding our own national security and safety. Given the murderous and megalomaniac enemies we face in the Taliban and Al Qaeda, retreat will not bring an end to the war. It will only bring it to our shores yet again. And you can be damn sure that if we abandon Afghanistan to those dark forces once again, we may yet end up paying a price in scorched earth devastation and human lives that would make the horrors of 9/11 seem desirable by comparison.
World Trade Center Site
The ruins of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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