It was good of Condoleezza Rice to stop off in Kabul yesterday, on her way to Moscow, to stand beside President Hamid Karzai and pledge the United States' "enduring commitment" to Afghanistan's security and reconstruction.
But before the secretary of state hopped back into the armored car for her short and speedy ride to the airport (where her plane took off in a near-vertical climb to avoid anti-aircraft fire), did she leave behind a pot of gold, a warehouse of weapons and bulldozers, a promise to double (or at least not to cut) American troops—any tangible sign of our allegiance, something that Karzai could point to as proof to his looming doubters that he is the only Afghan leader able to reap goods and favors from the world's wealthy powers?
In short, the answer is no. She also didn't say anything about committing further resources to support Afghanistan.
The Bush administration is doing quite a bit already, as is NATO. But the Western alliance signed up to a level of commitment—in troops, money, development assistance, and so forth—well before the recent surge of Taliban attacks, which have been much larger, fiercer, and better-coordinated than anyone had anticipated.
Which again points at the incredible oversight of the Bush administration in not finishing this war when we had a chance. In hindsight, why did Bush not commit sufficient forces to Afghanistan unless he was already thinking about using them elsewhere? Why did we let America's #1 enemy escape? To be sure, nobody wanted him to escape, but this administration didn't want to put 50,000 troops on the ground then. And now that we desperately need more forces in Afghanistan, the US is withdrawing troops to let NATO take over, even though this means an overall decrease in troop count.
By this fall, the United States is scheduled to cut back its troops from 23,000 to 18,000, while other NATO countries will boost theirs from 11,000 to 18,000. However, on a NATO-sponsored trip to Afghanistan that I took two weeks ago, one clear (though on background) message was that there aren't enough troops for the mission. As for the nascent Afghan National Army, which the United States and Britain are training, it's not ready for prime time, and, even so, the commandant of the training academy—an experienced Afghan general—said his country needs far more than the 70,000 homegrown soldiers that NATO has agreed to finance.
And of course, the violence is ongoing.
An insurgent attack on a British base killed two soldiers and an Afghan interpreter, military officials said Sunday, while at least 20 insurgents were killed in clashes and coalition airstrikes.
The deaths came during a massive anti-Taliban campaign in southern Afghanistan involving more than 10,000 Afghan and international soldiers. It is the largest military offensive since the Taliban government was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.
This isn't the magical final push on the enemy that crushes them for good. They're undertaking this campaign because the Taliban is putting together forces numbering in the thousands once again.
Also, it seems like they've been learning something from Iraq:
The insurgents are following the lead of fighters in Iraq and carrying out suicide attacks and roadside bombings that once were rare in Afghanistan.
"There are signs that the tactics that have brought such devastation to Iraq are being replicated in Afghanistan," the Foreign Affairs Committee of Britain's House of Commons said in a report Sunday on the foreign policy aspects of the fight against terrorism.
That is not good news, people.