Afghanistan still a necessary war

President Barack Obama made a persuasive case Tuesday night. The Taliban of Afghanistan and al Qaida in Pakistan are dangerous enemies of the United States, of the people of Pakistan and of western Europe. They must be destroyed, or made so weak they can no longer mount terrorist attacks.
So believing, he will send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and has persuaded the other nations of NATO to send at least 5,000 more. This will bring the NATO forces close to the 40,000 additional troops that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the allied commander, said he must have to turn the tide there.
He also said again that the U.S. mission there was not open-ended and pledged that withdrawals would begin within two years.
The president, his generals and other advisers have been considering a new Afghanistan strategy since September. Accused of “dithering” it now appears that their deliberations drug on because reaching a necessary consensus proved exhaustingly difficult. But they are now in agreement.
Agreement that the war must be fought and that the chances for what they can claim as a victory are better than even.
Thousands of Marines will ship out before the end of the year. Most of the 30,000 additional troops will be in the field before October. Obama will be using the “surge” tactics that President George W. Bush found successful in Iraq.
The surge did succeed in Iraq, largely because, as stronger U.S. forces cleared more and more cities, Sunni Iraqis turned against Iraqi insurgents and foreign militants. Gen. McChrystal, the senior allied commander, believes he can win enough Afghans over to the NATO cause to achieve similar results.
Gen. McChrystal believes that such conversions must take place before the Taliban can be defeated and replaced by Afghan soldiers and police. Students of the region agree. They contend that Afghans historically side with winners. If it becomes clear that the Taliban cannot win, and that Afghans can most reliably gain security by becoming an Afghan alternative, they will do so. It will help if NATO forces also establish courts and build schools and hospitals in addition to killing Taliban fighters.
But President Obama made it clear in his nationwide address that it is not his purpose to make the nation into a western-style democracy or to rebuild the nation. His ambitions are much more modest. He intends to destroy al Qaida and leave the Taliban too weak to take over the government. He wants to help Afghanistan become able to guarantee its people security and determine their own destiny.
The only nation he intends to build, he said, is our own.
If he can find a way to convince the Afghans that those modest goals are the length and breadth of our ambitions for their ravaged country perhaps enough of them will fight with NATO’s armies to make an independent Afghanistan free of Taliban cruelty, its medieval philosophies and its contemptuous treatment of women possible once more.

Emerson Lynn, jr.