Monday, September 25, 2006

Winning Afghanistan

2004 Presidential runner-up John Kerry, Senator from Massachusetts, penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal today, admonishing the Bush administration to get their act together in Afghanistan. In it we find hysteria, false choices, straw men, and other rhetorical devices that failed Mr. Kerry in 2004, and so it's curious why he should believe they'll be more effective now.

If Washington seems to have forgotten Afghanistan, it is clear the Taliban and al Qaeda have not. Less than five years after American troops masterfully toppled the Taliban, the disastrous diversion in Iraq has allowed these radicals the chance to rise again. Time is running out to reverse an unfolding disaster in the war we were right to fight after 9/11.

"Time is running out to reverse an unfolding disaster?" That sounds as dire a warning as Mr. Bush's/Mr. Kerry's/Mr. Rockefeller's/Mr. Clinton's/etc. warning about the dangers of having WMD in the hands of someone like Saddam Hussein. There's your dose of hysteria and scare-mongering. Democrats often accuse Mr. Bush of using the threat of terrorism to scare the public into voting Republican. The truth is that both sides try to scare the public, each in their own way, and each for their own purposes. Just think about the Social Security battle if you don't believe me.

When did denying al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan cease to be an urgent American priority? Somehow, we ended up with seven times more troops in Iraq--which even the administration now admits had nothing to do with 9/11--than in Afghanistan, where the killers still roam free.

Who says that Afghanistan has ceased to be an "urgent ... priority?" There's your straw man. Afghanistan is now a NATO operation - you know, Senator, working with your allies and all that. That the Taliban are reorganizing and fighting back is unsurprising. That additional offensive operations will ultimately be necessary is similarly unsurprising. The question is, is Afghanistan in danger of falling back under the control of the Taliban? The answer is no. That is not to say that they can't still resist by murdering Afghani civilians with terrorist tactics.

Quite simply, we must change course--starting with the immediate deployment of at least 5,000 additional U.S. troops. That includes more special forces to defeat the Taliban, more civil affairs troops to bolster the promising Provisional Reconstruction Teams, more infantry to prevent Taliban infiltration from Pakistan, and more clandestine intelligence units to hunt al Qaeda on both sides of the border.

Would more troops be helpful? No doubt. Are they necessary? Well, Mr. Kerry states that the U.S. NATO commander made an "urgent plea" for more. But, as he notes later in the article, it's not the U.S. that is lacking in troops. And because the other nations have not pulled their weight, the U.S. must therefore pick up the slack and act more ... what's the word ... unilaterally.

Asked which of the 26 countries in the alliance were dragging their feet in Afghanistan, Gen. Jones replied, "All of them." Where allies have pledged troops and assistance, they must follow through. But we must lead by example. That's how you win hearts and minds, and show the world the true face of America--and that's how you win the war on terror.

Finally, Mr. Kerry sets up another straw man, and knocks him down as the editorial concludes.

We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. The U.S. must not cut and run from the real front line in the war on terror. We must recommit to victory in Afghanistan.

The Bush administration made a mistake by cutting and running in Afghanistan? Who knew?

The veil over this entire piece is the unnecessary and detrimental war in Iraq, stealing troops and resources from the "real war." What makes Mr. Kerry think that it's necessary to lose in Iraq so that we can win in Afghanistan?

Of course, there is someone who disagrees with Mr. Kerry's pessimistic assessment.

And [Afghan President Hamid Karzai] dismissed suggestions that the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 motivated militants to engage in violence.

"Iraq is not a complicating factor," Karzai said. "Those who hate us for whatever reason hated us before 2001" and the attacks that year on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

The Afghan president said it would take at least 10 years of dedicated international opposition to defeat terrorism.

Later, Karzai accepted an honorary doctor of laws degree from Georgetown University.

In brief remarks, he described advances in the social sector in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

In contrast to the Taliban policy of denying education rights to girls, he said girls now account for 35 percent of total school enrollment in the country.

He said 80 percent of Afghans now have access to health services, compared with 9 percent under the Taliban.

Karzai expressed gratitude for the help and sacrifice of the United States on Afghanistan's behalf over the past five years.

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