- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

The situation in Afghanistan

M. Ashraf Haidari’s column “Afghan democracy” (Op-Ed, yesterday) aptly highlights the lack of attention paid to Afghanistan by the United States and Europe — both before and after September 11.

Compared to NATO efforts in the Balkans, operations in Afghanistan have been done on the cheap. Many big promises have been made, but few have been kept.

Afghans remain supportive of Western engagement, but many are sitting on the fence waiting to see who can deliver security — the Taliban or NATO. There is widespread disenfranchisement among Afghans about the security situation and the effectiveness of the Afghan central government in Kabul.

Mr. Haidari’s call for the international community to fork over $4 billion a year, delivering on aid commitments made in London, is rather facile given the security situation in Afghanistan.

There is little merit at this point in debating whether the strategy of securing Kabul and radiating control out from the center was the best option. That decision was made a long time ago.

As Mr. Haidari points out, this enabled the Taliban to regroup in the south, creating a hive of insurgency and drug trafficking that NATO must tackle head-on. Though money and investment in some part of Afghanistan can help rebuild the country, the most pressing concern right now is not to throw aid money at the problem, but first to address the security situation. NATO does not know why it is in Afghanistan.

There is no clear understanding of what the alliance is doing. Is NATO there for stabilization and reconstruction, or is the alliance there to fight an insurgency and bring security to the country? Is the alliance there to eradicate the poppy crop that produces about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product? Is NATO going to hunt terrorists as well as build schools?

Mission clarity is desperately needed. Until European governments adequately explain to their publics the necessity of the mission and get serious about deploying sufficient numbers of troops and equipment to fight the Taliban, throwing more money at the problem will not fix it.

Reconstruction will need to take place alongside security operations, but there must be recognition that combat operations will be part of that mission. Right now, people in Europe and Canada are slowly confronting this reality.

NATO’s political leadership needs to steady the organization’s resolve to bring security to Afghanistan and to provide the International Security Assistance Force with a clear mandate and well-defined goals. Only then will international money be effectively utilized.

MICHAEL J. WILLIAMS

Head

Transatlantic Programme

Royal United Services Institute for

Security and Defence Studies

London

Crisis in Somalia

The article on the deployment of Ethiopian troops to Somalia (“Ethiopia sends troops to aid ally,” World, Friday), demonstrates a narrow focus on the security aspect of what is labeled a domestic conflict. In his book, “No More Vietnams,” Richard Nixon comments that U.S. struggles in the Vietnam War partly stemmed from the fact that key leaders failed to appreciate the non-military aspects of what was a regional war. The same mistake cannot be made in Somalia.

While Eritrea’s desire for a second front against Ethiopia and the protection of Somalia’s weak transitional government are issues of concern, the desire of radicals on the Council of Islamic Courts to control Somali-inhabited portions of Kenya and Ethiopia as well as the hatred held by many Somalis toward Ethiopia also constitute significant threats to regional peace.

Equal attention to Somalia’s political, socioeconomic and security conditions can improve the crisis. After 15 years with violence but without a national government, ordinary Somalis, who tend not to subscribe to a radical brand of Islam, need a basic environment of security where they can havefood, medical supplies and jobs. Public support and political legitimacy will likely go to the first party that can facilitate this effort, even if that party is the Somali transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops.

F. JORDAN EVERT

Research Assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria, VA 22314

The stem-cell debate

At his first-ever veto ceremony, rejecting a bill that would have allowed more funding for stem-cell research, President Bush surrounded himself with children who were adopted while they were still embryos in fertility clinics (“Bush vetoes stem-cell funding,” Page 1, Thursday). That was deliberately misleading.

The bill Mr. Bush rejected wouldn’t have prevented a single one of them from being born. The bill was very specific and allowed federal money to be used only for research on embryos that otherwise would be destroyed, not adopted.

By opposing this medical research instead of encouraging it, Republicans are handing the lead in an important 21st-century industry to other countries. Second, and more important, their actions are delaying the kinds of breakthroughs that could stop pain, suffering and death for you or someone you love.

Imagine if the polio vaccine had been delayed five years. What if your parents had contracted it during that unfortunate five-year window?

Why does the Republican Party think it’s better to throw away microscopic cells than to use them to save others from nightmares like Ronald Reagan’s, Michael J. Fox’s or Christopher Reeves’?

The president’s veto won’t save a single life because the cells he is “morally protecting” are headed for the trash can. However, his veto may cost many lives and cause much needless suffering for all of us.

ALAN L. LIGHT

Iowa City, Iowa

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