Tuesday, November 25, 2003

FORGOTTEN, NOT LEFT BEHIND: Short commentary on Matthew's post from yesterday on Afghanistan. The title of the post ("A DAY LATE AND A BUCK SHORT") is far more appropriate than the post itself. In it, Matt argues:

we're already gone from Afghanistan. We shouldn't have left but it seems to me that it would be very awkward politically to go invade again just for the sake of getting it right the second time. Moreover, there's the small problem that our army is now in Iraq. My guess would be that forces will be substantially withdrawn from Iraq well before any liberals, armed or otherwise, get to have any say in the matter anyways.
I don't think that we have left Afghanistan. Abandoned? Not that either. We're right up there with 11,000 troops at Bagram Airport and a U.S.-backed interim government led by Hamid Karzai. It seems to me, at least, that we've forgotten Afghanistan.

I accept the premise that American troops are there to fight the al-Qaeda-Taliban-Gulbudding insurgency and unavailable for nation-buidling (although, after the developments in Iraq, I'm perplexed by Bush's blatant hypocricy). More than 400 Afghan soldiers, police officers and civilians have been killed in the current insurgency. The Taliban holds several provinces in Paktika and the U.N. refugee and mining agency have left. The security situation is dire, especially in the south. Bottom line: we're not doing enough fighting. We need to fight more, harder, better and faster. We also need to fight diplomatically, because we need Pakistan to act.

The secondary problem is funding and reconstruction, but nevertheless important. Those who promised to deliver--Arab countries, but especially the Europeans and Japan--aren't. A prime example is the highway between Kabul and Kandahar, which Bush hopes is going to be finished by the end of this year. To have it finished by 2005, we're only providing one layer instead of the usual three, so it won't be of any use anyway. (SPECIAL NOTE TO THE EUROPEANS: Come on! Get off your lazy asses and deliver.)

We need to get serious--before it's too late for the American people and the Afghans themselves.


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