Monday, December 21, 2009

Afghanistan: A lost cause

Sharon Ho
Issue date: 12/14/09

President Barack Obama announced a surge of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan on Dec. 1, disappointing Obama supporters who are saying they did not elect him for this. These voters apparently did not pay attention to his campaign promise that he would pull troops out of Iraq and focus on the war in Afghanistan if elected as president.

I believe that the war in Afghanistan is both unwinnable and detrimental to America’s national security.

“The two wars that we are fighting (in Afghanistan and Iraq) are counterproductive and not useful to us as a country,” said political science professor Leighton Armitage.

The Afghan people have always resented foreign presence in their country; the Soviet Union lost the nine-year Soviet–Afghan War fought during the Cold War. Increasing troops in Afghanistan will increase support for the Taliban, as Afghans who resent American military forces in their country will join the Taliban in fighting to drive American troops out.

The war in Afghanistan cannot be fought and won like the Iraq War; Afghanistan does not have a centralized government like Iraq. Rather, the Afghan people consist of many different tribes in villages scattered across the country.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s current president, is rightly described as the “Mayor of Kabul”, as he does not have any real control of the country beyond the capital city of Kabul. A Gallup poll conducted in June this year revealed that eight in 10 Afghans believe their country is riddled with widespread corruption and more than half of respondents said they don’t think Karzai is doing enough to address this problem. It is the Taliban and the tribal leaders who hold sway outside Kabul.

It is a mistake to increase troops in Afghanistan in the hopes of driving the Taliban back and giving control of these areas to Afghan national troops. The Afghan people trust their tribal leaders and look to their own local militia, not national Afghan troops, to defend their villages against the Taliban.

Since Obama has made the decision to send more troops, these additional troops should focus on supporting tribal leaders and the local militia, and not the Afghan national troops. Tribal leaders are respected by and hold great influence over the Afghan people. Local militia are comprised of the people living in the villages. The local militia has a real stake in protecting their villages against Taliban forces and are more committed to fighting the Taliban, unlike Afghan national troops.

Whether the American people support or oppose the war in Afghanistan or the decision to send additional troops there, these brave soldiers who have volunteered to fight for America rightly deserve and should still receive the support of the American people.

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