- - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I was dismayed to learn Afghan Vice President Rashid Dostum has been denied a visa. President Obama’s team has yet again done damage to a foreign leader who is struggling against radical Islamic terrorism. Of course, the president’s team can’t even use those words, so it should be no surprise their actions are so off-target.

Thus, we witness the spectacle of the U.S. government undermining efforts to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

The latest example is a senseless slap in the face of Afghanistan’s vice president.

I have known Gen. Dostum for two decades. It is clearly to America’s advantage to have this battle-tested leader on our side. Instead, by denying him a visa even to come here and talk to U.S. leaders about the challenges we face in his part of the world, we have insulted him and undermined those now struggling against a terrorist insurgency in Afghanistan.

After the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, our government left that beleaguered country to the tender mercies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The result was the disastrous emergence and empowering of the Taliban.

During the 1990s, in the face of the Taliban takeover, I traveled to Afghanistan to muster support for a return of exiled King Zahir Shah, a moderate Muslim monarch beloved of his people. Our own State Department undermined that effort even as the anti-American, Islamic extremism of the Taliban became more evident. In those dark days, Gen. Dostum’s strength and commitment gave hope to the Afghan people that their fanatical oppressors could be defeated.

Then, after Sept. 11, 2001, those of us who knew Gen. Dostum advocated that he and four other ethnic leaders of his Northern Alliance begin the task of driving the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies out of Afghanistan. It was Gen. Dostum, an Uzbek Afghan, and a few other Afghan ethnic leaders who did the fighting and carried the day. With 200 U.S. Special Forces and U.S. air support, they soundly defeated the Taliban and al Qaeda. In fact, when Kabul was liberated, only 200 U.S. troops were in the country.

Gen. Dostum and other Afghan fighters waged the battle for Afghanistan and won even before sizable numbers of U.S. troops arrived.

Defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda was a bloody and dirty job. The Obama team’s vilification of these Afghan patriots is disgusting.

Recently, Gen. Dostum requested a visa to come to Washington. He was turned down. He’s been accused of war crimes over a prison incident that happened during the fighting, turmoil and bloodshed that was necessary to defeat the Taliban.

To be sure, there was brutality and mayhem, but that was only after those same prisoners broke a pledge not to resist or attack their captors. Instead, they rose up, murdered their guards, and killed CIA agent Michael Spann.

Ignoring that chaos and blaming the death of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners on Gen. Dostum is a travesty.

That charge is being made about a fighter who, after Sept. 11, got the job done. It is made by those who botched their own responsibility afterward.

Yes, once that battle — fought by the Northern Alliance — was over, our State Department bungled what was an opportunity to establish a lasting political and economic structure based on federalism, decentralization, and a return to moderation and the monarchy. Instead, our government insisted Hamid Karzai be installed in power. His would be the most centralized government they could imagine or desire. Not only did Mr. Karzai have no political base, but he was surrounded by corrupt, self-serving minions, some from his own family.

Mr. Karzai’s term in office was a dramatic failure, a lost opportunity. I say that not because he banned me from Afghanistan, but because he made things worse, not better, placing America in greater danger from radical Islamic terrorists.

Two years ago, a new team was elected to power. President Ashraf Ghani reached out to Gen. Dostum and made him vice president. He earned the job. Now, when decisions must be made, our president and his team are treating this Afghan hero as a pariah.

As some accuse Gen. Dostum of war crimes, our government is displaying an astonishing ingratitude toward a man who deserves the appreciation of the American people. So we turn to Gen. Dostum, clearly a tough leader who reflects the values of the people of Afghanistan.

We still need him on our side.

Unfortunately, we now see that the Obama administration has turned its predilection for betraying our allies into an art form.

Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

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