Afghanistan Continues To Slip Away


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As the American military and people are distracted by the War in Iraq, the United States' first victory in the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' continues to slide into defeat. Consider this lede from an Oct 2 Associated Press article:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and urged support for efforts to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" and their allies into the government.

Surprised by that? I was. I'm not surprised by the recognition that a war against an armed insurgency would be long and potentially futile. I'm surprised that that is coming from the Republic Majority Leader in the Senate.

It is also surprising the extent to which that sentiment undercuts the activities of NATO allies. Consider the appeal from the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Richards, for more troops to bolster his 32,000 man force:

He said the south of the country, where NATO troops have fought their most intense battles this year, has been "broadly stabilized," which gives the alliance an opportunity to launch projects there. If it doesn't, he estimates about 70 percent of Afghans could switch their allegiance from NATO to the Taliban.

Essentially, the commander believes that people in the south need to see an improvement in their lives, and soon, or they'll prefer Taliban rule over the fighting their witnessing now:

"They will say, 'We do not want the Taliban but then we would rather have that austere and unpleasant life that that might involve than another five years of fighting,'" Richards said in an interview.

Lastly, consider the dwindling support from Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. On the one hand, President Musharraf offers NATO forces in Afghanistan the right of "hot pursuit" into Tribal areas. On the other hand, he offers peace to Pakistan Taliban leaders in the tribal areas, along with the release of some al-Qaeda suspects not previously know to the U.S. In exchange for a promise to cease cross-border activities.

This represents a big change in Pakistan's former allegedly-active participation in the 'War on Terror' to more of a sideline role.

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