Afghanistan: A lost cause
The incoming Obama administration will be making a grievous mistake if it goes ahead with its plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan by shipping more troops there.
We were fully justified to invade Afghanistan in 2001. The 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were launched from Afghanistan by the Arab-led Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, for whom the local Taliban radical Islamic government had provided a base. Our goal was to destroy Al-Qaeda, capture its leader, Osama bin-Laden, and topple the Taliban regime.
The U.S. was on the verge of achieving these objectives until the Bush administration unwisely invaded Iraq two years later, deploying resources away from Afghanistan. The military focus shifted from fighting a war against an enemy that had attacked the U.S. to invading another country that had posed no threat to our national security.
Since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. The pro-American Karzai regime, which we had installed, has proven to be so corrupt that public confidence has collapsed. Moreover, resentment of foreign military forces has grown as U.S. air strikes have caused heavy civilian casualties.
The Taliban has thus regained much of its power and influence while Al-Qaeda has shifted its major bases to the ungovernable tribal areas in neighboring Pakistan's Northwest Province.
The Obama administration now faces the problem of battling Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. That country has a new, presumably pro-American government that is increasingly under pressure from radical Islamic forces that are sympathetic to Al-Qaeda and eager to install a Taliban-like regime in Pakistan.
The much touted "surge" of American forces did strengthen our position in Iraq, at least for the short term. But sending more troops to Afghanistan is unlikely to help the fight against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
This is a situation that could probably be handled more effectively with covert counter-insurgency operations, combined with delicate diplomatic moves, rather than with conventional military action.