Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why We Fight

There is still some confusion about our goals and strategy for Afghansitan even as troops are being scheduled to double our troop strength there.

Secretary Gates thinks our strategic goals for Afghanistan should be limited:

"My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists," Gates said.The Obama administration is working with military leaders to craft a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, which Gates said has become America's "top overseas military priority."

He also recognizes that our surge of troops has limits:

Gates said U.S. and allied troops must try harder to avoid killing civilians. "My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of their problem rather than part of their solution, and then we are lost," he said.

Unfortunately, this is a limit on our firepower usage that is foisted on us by the media despite the fact that the Taliban are responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

And it isn't just the strategy that is uncertain. How will more troops be used in Afghanistan to achieve whatever objective we set?

Without a guiding strategy, top commanders and senior civilian officials are in disagreement over what missions the additional troops should be assigned, and how those missions could be coordinated with political and economic development efforts. Senior officials say the studies are not yet completed.Troops deployed in Afghanistan have expressed confusion about whether their ultimate goal is to eliminate the Taliban or help Afghanistan become a viable democracy. U.S. officials say military objectives often undercut development work, and aid agencies frequently complicate military tactics.

I've raised all these issues.

Now all we need to hear is how President Obama will define our goals and rebuff his supporters who are already eager to retreat from Afghanistan.

I want to win in Afghanistan. But I want objectives consistent with our national interests and capacity to wage war--both physically and emotionally.

Of course, my support for victory doesn't depend on our government fighting exactly the way I would like us to fight. The evil nature of our enemies makes my questions relatively small matters.

We must kill and defeat our enemies. Let's get on with it.