Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Thousand Dead and Counting

"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan," President Obama said almost six months ago, "I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow."

Now, a Kabul suicide bomber raises the toll of our dead there to more than 1,000 as threats of terrorism on American soil are clearly tied to Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Now, even the proprietor of the war, Gen. Stanley McChrystal admits that "nobody is winning at this point" and talks wishfully about creating "Afghan defense capacity" while conceding that "for a significant period of time, assistance to that capacity and governance and development assistance is probably to be expected."

Now, our young people are still serving as targets in a so-called war that is not really a war but a misbegotten attempt at nation-building in a tribal country where corruption is rampant and ancient hatreds defy naïve hopes for democratic rule.

Over a year ago, a persuasive argument was made to increase funding and training for Afghans as US troops withdraw gradually while trying to buy away less extreme elements of the Taliban and preserving the option of air strikes to keep them bought.

"Our strategy in Afghanistan," former president of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb contended, "should emphasize what we do best (containing and deterring, and forging coalitions) and downgrade what we do worst (nation-building in open-ended wars). It should cut our growing costs and secure our interests by employing our power more creatively and practically. It must also permit us--and this is critical--to focus more American resources and influence on the far more dire situation in Pakistan."

His proposal makes even more sense now, after what we know about the backing of the Christmas and Times Square bombers, another year of Karzai corruption and duplicity, and an accelerating toll of American casualties.

After announcing the Surge to an audience of West Point cadets, President Obama called it "the most emotional speech that I've made...I was looking out over a group of cadets, some of whom were going to be deployed in Afghanistan. And potentially some might not come back. There is not a speech that I've made that hit me in the gut as much."

It's time for the President to revisit that gut feeling and start summoning Americans who, opinion polls show, have their doubts about being there to stop sacrificing our young people senselessly in Afghanistan

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