Afghanistan
Obviously Afghanistan has been the primary focal point in the War on Terror since September 11, 2001 when the United States was attacked and about 3,000 people were murdered. The US government identified Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda organization based in and allied with the Taliban, the Islamic government in Afghanistan, as the perpetrators of the attacks. While political and military mistakes have been made in this 10 year conflict, we have been successful and destroying the violent Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership and allowing a government friendly to its neighbors to hopefully evolve. This evolution will take time and be difficult, so our commitment should not waver, but our need for regular military forces in Afghanistan has ended. Continuing to watch and appropriately react to developments in Afghanistan will be an important political issue.

Afghanistan Is Not Iraq

8/31/14
from Bloomberg Businessweek,
8/28/14:

Critics say US withdrawal will be catastrophic. They're wrong.

Afghanistan’s political impasse has renewed calls that the U.S. revisit plans to pull its soldiers out of the country by the end of 2016. Look at Iraq, these critics say, arguing that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal that started in 2009 vaporized U.S. influence, opened the door to insurgents, and plunged Iraq into chaos. There’s no denying that Afghanistan now teeters between civil war and its first peaceful political transition. Credible allegations of massive fraud have tainted the June election. An internationally supervised audit of the results is behind schedule and mired in controversy. President Hamid Karzai has threatened to leave office by Sept. 2, regardless of whether the audit is done. Yet it’s simplistic to say that as went Iraq, so goes Afghanistan. Afghanistan doesn’t face the same Sunni and Shia Muslim fissure. Instead, power struggles have played out among seven ethnic groups; Pashtuns are a plurality, but each of the others constitute a majority in different regions. Afghanistan’s population is more dispersed; it doesn’t have oil to spark conflicts.

It isn’t clear that the number of U.S. boots on the ground translates into meaningful leverage or is necessarily conducive to an enduring, much less healthy, stability. That doesn’t mean the U.S. shouldn’t push the rivals for the presidency to compromise, and continue to provide economic support. A stable government that supports the aspirations of the Afghan people is more likely to advance U.S. interests. The case for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan should rest not on their utility in midwifing democracy. It should be based on their effectiveness in preventing the reemergence of a direct threat to the U.S. and its allies.

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