REFLECTIONS

Posted on September 18, 2010

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DOUBTS ABOUT AFGHAN WAR GROWS

A recent CNN poll showed  57 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan War, and amid recent setbacks, foreign policy makers, who once supported the war, are now talking about a way out.

Our nine-year-old Afghan War has always had its critics. But now a number of former officials, who once supported it, are questioning if the benefit of stabilizing Afghanistan is worth the cost. They are no longer willing to give the U.S. military more time to see if the war can be won. In fact, they point out that the Soviet Union, Great Briton, and even Alexander the Great among others could not win a war in Afghanistan.

The doubters include Richard N. Haass, president of the council on Foreign Relations, the closest thing we have to an official foreign policy establishment. Leslie H. Geib, his predecessor, and Richard D. Blackwell, a former  aide to President George W. Bush, now opposes the war.

The current strategy isn’t working, and it costs roughly $100 billion annually in addition to the lives lost and the tens of thousands who are injured or disabled. It is time to scale down, but not an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. We need to scale down our ambitions in Afghanistan.

Recently a group of 46 foreign policy experts issued a report arguing that the goal of building a unified, stable Afghanistan is beyond the ability of the United States, and unnecessary to boot.

“A U.S. military victory over the Taliban is not necessary to protect U.S. interests,” said Paul R. Pillar, a former CIA counter terrorism official.

There are three main reasons for pessimism. First, the setbacks (including a major offensive in Kandahr that was scheduled to be in full swing by now.) but it is only getting underway.

Second, Afghan President Hamid Karzi’s failure to support an U.S. sponsored anti corruption campaign.

Third, There is that $100 billion annual cost including the lives and injuries to our military people. Other reasons include the fact that Germany is withdrawing some troops this year, and Great Briton is pulling out of Afghanistan sometime in 2011. Some NATO nations have already withdrew their troops including the Netherlands. The Kabul Bank, largest in Afghanistan, is in financial trouble.

President Barack Obama said he will start drawing down U. S. troops July 2011. General David H. Petraeus has agreed to the  draw down in principle, but he says his strategy needs time to succeed. The general decries the burden of working against” the Washington clock,” and the pressure to wrap the war up as soon as possible.

As Obama’s next decision approaches, that clock is ticking ever more loudly. It is good that we have civilians  in charge of the military.

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