Thursday, February 28, 2008

Standing still in Afghanistan?

It has been more than six years since U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan to rout the Taliban, and while the terror group is greatly weakened, the government established with the help of U.S. military might and led by President Hamid Karzai (pictured) is hardly in control of the country. That's not my opinion. It's the opinion of National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell, who told senators Wednesday that the central government in Afghanistan, after the expenditure of billions of dollars and the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops, controls only 30 percent of the country. The Taliban still holds sway over 10 percent of Afghanistan, said McConnell, and the rest of the country is in the hands of local tribal chiefs. Afghanistan is also the world leader, by a wide, wide margin, in the production of illicit opium, and proceeds from the opium trade help to fuel the insurgency there. The senators also heard from the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, who said Pakistan is trying to clean up the lawless region along its border with Afghanistan, a place where the Taliban and al-Qaida are believed to have set up shop. Just one problem: Maples says the Pakistani military and the tribal Frontier Corps aren't sufficiently trained or equipped to fight the insurgents. This after six years. And Maples says it will take another three to five years to get that straightened out. By that time, the U.S. effort to rehabilitate Afghanistan will be at the decade mark. More billions will have been spent. More U.S. lives will be lost. We obviously cannot allow the Taliban and al-Qaida to regain control of the country, but it's also pretty obvious that our approach to Afghanistan has been largely a failure. One wonders what could have been accomplished in Afghanistan if our troops had not been diverted to overthrow Saddam Hussein.



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