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Stop Dithering and Make a Decision

GUEST OPINION: This comes from Timothy Swainhart, US Army, Retired

Over the past few months the Obama administration has been trying to figure out what policy change, if any, should be made in Afghanistan. My guess is that they will kick the ball down the road, neither greatly increasing the number nor reducing the number of troops. This is a huge mistake.

Afghanistan is a money pit, a  “tar baby” and a no win conflict for the United States. We spend and have been spending billions of dollars fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully, the Iraq war is winding down and US troops will be brought home from there within the next couple of years. In Afghanistan,  a war that President Obama deemed a “good war” during the presidential campaign in 2008, there is little hope of bringing our troops home.

The Taliban have rallied and increased their control within many areas of Afghanistan. They are much more ruthless in the way in which they fight than are the soldiers of the United States and other NATO nations. We purposely attempt to avoid civilian casualties so that we don’t receive negative media coverage of our operations. The Taliban are more than willing to murder innocent villagers so that people fear opposing the Taliban. They welcome the press coverage of such events because it spreads the fear. As we used to say on the playground, “No fair.”

The United States often gets involved in wars because of good intentions. We intended to assist the South Vietnamese and keep them free from communism. Earlier we did a similar thing in Korea, again helping the South Koreans to fend off the North. We invaded Afghanistan as a justified reaction to 9-11, essentially doing so to capture Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately, we forgot the primary mission after we missed capturing him in Tora Bora and turned our attention to Iraq. Osama is still alive, based upon recent tapes from him, and remains a thorn in our side.

We are not going to fix Afghanistan. It is not a country as we know countries. It is a land of tribes. They form alliances on an ad hoc basis. They are not loyal or patriotic to a national government but are loyal to fellow tribesman. It is a recipe that does not lend itself well to nation building and the United States should know better than to try.

The government is corrupt and will likely continue to be even after the runoff election. Karzai’s brother is reportedly involved in the opium trade. Whether his brother receives proceeds from the trade is an open question.

According to reports, many insurgents fight against the Americans because they consider us to be invaders and occupiers of their country. This country knows that the Soviets grew tired of paying the price of men and material fighting against Afghani tribesmen. They know that the American army will also leave. The Taliban have ample examples of the impatience of the American people to be engaged in long wars.

We should search for and find an exit strategy from this quagmire. Some would argue that such a decision would give the Taliban what they want. True. They will partially rule over a backward nation of tribesman and uneducated peasants. We cannot fix all of the similar countries in the world. We have no business trying to fix this one.

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  1. October 30th, 2009 at 19:38 | #1

    Thank you for your informed opinion. As we pointed out in our McChrystal Clock post, it is time to make a decision. Bloggers and other interested in using our clock can obtain it here.

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