Saturday, October 06, 2007

Winning the Good War, Too

We are making great progress in Afghanistan. We are exceeding my expectations for the country:

Truth be told, when we hit Afghanistan, my only goal was to wreck al Qaeda and not overthrow the Taliban. I did not foresee the success of of destroying the Taliban regime with our support for locals with money, special forces and CIA operators, and air power.

And since Afghan Moslems aren't really part of the main problem with Saudi-style Islamism, I was willing to rely on a policy that kept whatever friendly regime in power as long as it kept Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again.

But some people insist, year after year, that we are losing in Afghanistan. This article uses the occasion of our expansion of an air base to make the case. Says the article:

Originally envisioned as a temporary home for invading U.S. forces, the sprawling American base at Bagram, a former Soviet outpost in the shadow of the towering Hindu Kush mountains, is growing in size by nearly a third.

Today the U.S. has about 25,000 troops in the country, and other NATO nations contribute another 25,000, more than three times the number of international troops in the country four years ago, when the Taliban appeared defeated.

The Islamic militia has come roaring back since then, and 2007 has been the battle's bloodiest year yet.

Barnett R. Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan at New York University, said U.S. leaders in Washington "utterly failed" to understand what was needed to consolidate that original Taliban rout, which started with airstrikes on Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks in Washington and New York.

"The Bush administration did not see Afghanistan as a long-term commitment, and its leaders deceived themselves into thinking they had won an irreversible victory. They did not consider Afghanistan important and always intended to focus on Iraq," he said.

"Now the U.S. and international community have fallen way behind, and the Taliban are winning strategically, even if we defeat them in every tactical engagement," he added.

Good grief. Some people are determined to lose. Why is their "expertise" so focused on details that they miss the big picture?

Flush with drug cash, the Taliban have for the past two years recruited Taliban in Pakistan--not Afghanistan--and sent them to be slaughtered. That is what the author calls the Taliban "roaring back."

And as I said in my post linked above, after breaking al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, this was indeed a secondary front. We were right not to focus on Afghanistan to the exclusion of other threats.

And yes, we did rout the enemy. And the enemy is angering the Afghan population with their bloody tactics. How are the Taliban winning strategically?

The problem is that the enemy has a sanctuary in Pakistan where it can sally forth after they lick their wounds.

Until we can get Pakistan to control their side of the border, we will face hired guns coming into Afghanistan. This is not an Afghanistan problem. It is a Pakistan problem.