Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why Afghanistan?

Obama has said repeatedly that Afghanistan is the real central front in the misnamed "war on terror," and is apparently planning to commit up to 30,000 more U.S. troops (in addition to 36,000 there now) to the fight. SecDef Gates testified this week that we should scale back our objectives and focus on the military battle against the Taliban rather than nation-building (leave that to NATO, he said, though he didn't take enough notice that the Europeans would just as soon get their troops out). This strikes me as profoundly misguided.

As this Register editorial points out, Afghanistan is bigger than Iraq, with more difficult terrain and no tyradition of having a central government. Karzai's government is corrupt and ineffective and the Taliban is mostly indigenous rather than being foreign fighters. And they have that safe haven in Pakistan. We should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans after putting them on notice that we'll strike if we have a bead on Osama bin Laden, perhaps after giving them maybe five minutes notice. Otherwise we could be there and unlikely to dominate in the graveyard of empires. Even, hardly a bunch of pansy isolationists, is inclined to agree, arguing that the real focus shold be on al-Qaida, by withdrawing troops from AFghanistan and giviung the anti-al-Qaida burdfen to intelligence and special forces.

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