Afghanistan is right next door

Sixty years ago a journalism student aimed at editorial writing would be counseled against “Afghanistanism.” The injunction was a warning against pontificating on a subject so remote from the interests and knowlege of their readers that the comments would have no pertinence to their daily lives.
How America’s world has changed over those decades. Today the war in Afghanistan is topic number one in Washington and the decisions made on the dilemmas it raises will affect all of us. What happens in Ka-bul makes as much difference to a Kansan’s tomorrow as what goes on in Topeka.
And the prospects for Kabul right now are pretty bleak.
The country is more dangerous for Americans and other foreigners today than it was five years ago after the U.S. and its allies had toppled the Taliban. Today most aid workers stay in Kabul, in secure compounds, and don’t dare venture into the fields to help poppy farmers switch to another crop or into villages to help set up schools, create pure water supplies and establish effective police forces and trusted courts.
The national elections held Aug. 20 were so patently fraudulent that President Hamid Karzai lost whatever credibility he had both at home and abroad.
Gen. Stanley A. Mc-Chrystal, the top NATO commander, was put in charge of the fighting because of his expertise in fighting insurgencies. He is convinced that the road to victory lies in persuading regional warlords to join the NATO forces along with their fighters, rather than winning military victories.
We will win, he says, when the people of Afghanistan decide that we are the winners and join us to be on the winning side.
While this analysis may be as correct as its circular logic makes it sound, the tactic can only succeed by putting enough boots on the ground to become an ob-viously overwhelming force.
Which brings us back to Washington, D.C. and Iola, Kansas.
The war in Afghanistan made sense to the American people in 2003, when our forces invaded to destroy Al- Qaida, capture or kill Osama bin Laden and get even for 9/11.
The Taliban were quickly toppled and the nation came under the military control of the NATO forces.
But that was six-and-a-half years and the war in Iraq ago. Al-Qaida moved from Afghanistan into the tribal regions of Pakistan. Bin Laden continues to issue taunting threats from his hideouts there. The Taliban are resurgent in an Afghan-istan that provides no security to its own people or to its occupiers.
These dismal realities have eroded support for the war among the NATO nations, including this one.
More and more Americans tell pollsters that the war can’t be won, that they don’t want another 40,000 U.S. troops sent there, that they resent spending billions of borrowed dollars a month on the war without making visible pro-gress.
What course America should take now in that far-off, but oh-so-present country is the toughest decision President Ba-rack Obama must make before very many more days roll by.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.