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BLANKLEY: Futile death in Afghanistan
Wavering commitment kills American troops
The administration’s Afghanistan war policy seems to be settling into a dismal combination of confusion and cynicism. Before the November elections, the administration was adamant that the troops would start coming home by July 2011. That, it is presumed, was to keep the president’s liberals calm.
But before the various recounts were even finished, the White House announced that the target date for turning the fighting over to the Afghan government had been pushed back to 2014 - and that even that distant date was merely “aspirational.” The delay to 2014, presumably, is to keep the pro-war Republicans and Pentagon calm.
But can any rational observer remain calm as we watch our brave young troops risking - and too often giving - their last measure of devotion in that godforsaken land? It is not clear what has changed for a Westerner fighting in Afghanistan since Rudyard Kipling wrote the flowing closing stanzas in his poem “The Young British Soldier”:
If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight, And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier …
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
I am not arguing that we could not win a theoretical war in Afghanistan. But this particular war is being fought without sufficient resources, without a strategy that can remotely succeed - and, most unfortunately, with at least one eye on our domestic politics rather than both eyes on victory.
Regarding resources, the strategy calls for us to deny sanctuary to the enemy such that al Qaeda could not get back in the country safely. Yet even with the surge troops, we cannot occupy any but the most populous areas - so even if we succeed in our current efforts (which we are not doing) we will not be executing our strategy for want of troops.
Regarding the strategic failure, the premise of this war as currently being run is that we will turn everything over to the Afghan government army and police, who will be capable of maintaining whatever successes our troops will have achieved. This is laughable.
As virtually any troops or officers recently back from Afghanistan will tell you, the number of Afghan troops and police being recruited, trained and kept in service is pathetically short of targets. Moreover, most of them won’t fight. The idea that they will be ready to take over in 2011 or even 2014 is just not in the cards. Yet that is our strategic exit strategy.
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