Posted tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Can we call Afghanistan a quagmire yet?

July 4, 2010

I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever see another Fourth of July that doesn’t feature a general promising what seems to be an increasingly elusive victory in the nearly 9-year-old war in Afghanistan.

This year it was Gen. David Petraeus pledging “we are in this to win,” as he took over command of the war following President Barack Obama’s parting of ways with Gen. Stanley McChrystal for poor-mouthing the administration.

The problem is that the victory Petraeus speaks of is getting difficult to define as the Afghan government remains shaky, the Taliban gains strength despite our years of sacrifice and U.S. public support for the war wanes.

Here’s how Petraeus describes the task: “We must demonstrate to the Afghan people — and to the world — that al-Qaida and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.”

In practical terms, this seems to mean propping up a hopelessly corrupt Kabul regime that is only suspicious of us against a repressive rival that is openly hostile to our efforts to enforce our will in a part of the world we don’t understand and where we’re not welcome.

It’s highly unlikely that the regime will find its legs in time to meet Obama’s July 2011 goal to start withdrawing U.S. forces in a war that he’s too eagerly made his own after inheriting it from George W. Bush.

It was ironic that as a sign of progress, Petraeus noted that 7 million Afghan children are in school compared with fewer than 1 million a decade ago.

That’s nice for them, but improving public education in Afghanistan wasn’t the reason we went to war, and you’ve got to wonder how much the billions we’ve spent could have helped our own miserably lagging public schools.


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