Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In trying to fight the inevitable in Iraq, we may lose Afghanistan

Getting lost amid all the reports on Iraq is the deterioting situation in Afghanistan: coalition casualties have ticked up, the Taliban is gaining ground, and an increasingly unpopular Hamid Karzai is calling on warlords to fill the gap left by a United Stated distracted by Iraq.

Pat Buchanan paints the picture bleakly:

"There is an awful feeling that everything is lurching downward," the Western diplomat told The Washington Post.

"Nearly five years on, there is no rule of law. ... The Afghans know it is all a charade, and they see us as not only complicit, but actively involved. You cannot fight a terror war and build a weak state at the same time, and it was a terrible mistake to think we could." What that disconsolate diplomat is saying is that America is losing the Afghan war.

According to the Post report, President Hamid Karzai is losing the confidence of his people and our European allies. The Taliban dominates the southeast of the country at night and is fighting in the largest units it has deployed since the fall of the regime in 2001. Anti-Americanism is spreading. A fatal accident, involving a U.S. military vehicle, caused anti-American riots across the capital.

NATO forces, who are to take over from the Americans in the embattled provinces, are likely to begin taking causalities as soon as they arrive. Meanwhile, the narcotics traffickers are bolder than ever...

Pat Buchanan goes on to simulatenously suggest we are losing our resolve in Iraq with calls - from the Democrats to General Casey - to remove troops. But I think this misses the point. We need to be withdrawing some troops from Iraq now - and redeploy them to Afghanistan to help stabilize the situation there.

By going into this Iraq detour, we abandoned Afghanistan. And if we don't take serious action there, the Taliban will again regain control which means Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network will regain its old sanctuary and training grounds - completely undoing the purpose of the invasion in the first place.

Buchanan is right in writing that the withdrawal of American troops is inevitable one way or another. By Democrats or Republicans. Strategic or Political. But this is exactly why we must move to start redeployment now because we are running out of time to right our mistakes in Afghanistan.

The point of no return is coming, and we will be wise to take notice of this fact before it's too late.


Xanthippas said...

As strange as this may sound at first, it is arguable that Afghanistan presents a greater threat to our national security than Iraq does. If we were to leave Iraq and it were to descend into civil war, there is not much liklihood that jihadists will descent on Iraq to set up terrorist training camps, then leave Iraq to try and make their way over here. No, they'll be busy fighting the Shiites in an attempt to create a theocratic state in their mold. But in Afghanistan we are fighting the resurgance of a group that permitted Al Qaeda to operate and plan missions to strike us, in their territory. I would argue that the greater danger, as far as terrorism goes, is Afghanistan, tracts of which are still largely a no-man's land for coalition forces.

(The danger an unstable Iraq presents to the Middle East, and thus to us, is another argument for another post.)

adam said...

That's not strange at all, and I meant to be implicit in my post, but you flesh it out well.

Of course, we know from Richard Clarke that at least to Rumsfeld, Iraq was originally of higher priority than Afghanistan - right after 9/11.