Thursday, November 05, 2009

The case against continued involvement in Afghanistan

Yesterday I was accosted by a man who is a mechanic by profession over the situation in Afghanistan. He was incensed that we were spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan [“Billions! Billions!,” he kept saying], and from his point of view the American project there was a total waste. I wish I could have mustered a better defense of my own belief that our military can make a serious contribution to the country, one that over the long run could protect our interests. But I understand the frustration that the American people feel over the mess in Afghanistan / Pakistan, two countries far away that seem to be endemically conflicted and disorganized, even in some ways under powerful criminal influences.

The most unacceptable part of the situation is that Americans are being asked to die for an Afghanistan government that seems unable to control pervasive graft and incompetence. If the situation were better there, it would easier for me to justify our investment [Billions!] in the region, although still hard to justify the loss of American life.

I have come to believe that if the Pakistan military, who have a decisive [although relatively invisible] grip on the government, doesn’t make up its mind to stamp out all Islamic extremists, not just the ones bent on bringing down the Pakistan government, then all the American effort in Afghanistan will be wasted.

So – again – the fundamental issue, the real problem, resides in Pakistan, and in fact with those who are most powerful in Pakistan. If they make the critical commitment -- a full commitment -- then the Taliban/ Al Qaeda coalition will be toast.

Otherwise, I have to admit that the mechanic was probably right.

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