Tuesday, December 1, 2009
OBL: Answer to the unserious question about Afghan war: "Why are we there?"
About an hour from this writing, President Obama will speak at West Point to explain his decision to send approximately 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next nine months or so, with the first contingent to arrive by Christmas. His decision is already coming under intense fire from left-wing critics of U.S. military action who don't appear concerned about the devastating attacks on Americans launched by al Qaeda from their refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan --except as a way to criticize the Bush Administration. At the same time, right-wing bloggers and talking heads are still damning Obama for taking "too long" to decide and for seemingly choosing a troop strength somewhat below that requested by the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Both of these lines of attack on Obama are at best foolish and at worst destructive. People on the left and the right have forgotten -- or choose to ignore -- the compelling reason for this war: Mullah Omar's Taliban government of Afghanistan not only gave refuge to and protected Osama bin Laden, so that he could plan and launch the attacks of 9/11. The Taliban were closely allied with al Qaeda, drew financial and logistical support from al Qaeda for their own war against fellow Afghans, and fought side by side with the literally thousands of al Qaeda's Arab, Pakistani, Chechen, Uzbek and other non-Afghan terrorists trained in bin Laden's Afghan camps. An American withdrawal from Afghanistan -- or a defeat in the field -- would result swiftly in Mullah Omar's return, the re-establishment of his "Emirate" government, and the reinstallation of of "Sheikh" bin Laden as an honored guest and crucial supporter of a renewed Taliban. Anyone who doesn't understand that this will happen as surely as the sun comes up in the morning is a fool -- or worse.
At the same time, the U.S. has no interest in conquering or occupying Afghanistan or in imposing on Afghans a style of government not of their own choosing. This is not World War II, there will be no "unconditional surrender," and the right amount of force must be used with extreme care. Too many on the right fail miserably to appreciate this.
We'll see soon enough if the new U.S. troop strength is sufficient and whether Gen. McChrystal's strategy -- as modified by the Administration's senior national security team and adopted by Obama -- needs further refinement. (In all military actions, planning is essential -- but so is flexibility in quickly changing plans to meet the actual conditions of the battlefield.) But right now, the President should have the support of everyone who wants to see this war end as quickly as possible with the job of defeating al Qaeda -- completely and permanently -- finished.
What's your take? Post a comment.