Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Afghan questions

THE year-long analysis of the U.S. situation in Afghanistan, ordered by President Obama and released this month, fails to address at least two key issues: corruption there and popular support for the war here.

The government whose authority U.S. forces are fighting to establish is as crooked as a dog's hind leg. It lacks the support of the Afghan people.

Related to that problem is skepticism here about whether the war remains worth pursuing, particularly in light of our nation's government finances and domestic needs. Despite the declining level of American interest in Afghanistan, the United States continues to spend $2 billion a week there.

The Obama Administration likely would claim that the second question exceeds the reach of the review. The report was intended to examine war policy a year after Mr. Obama increased U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 30,000 troops, in response to military entreaties and promises of immediate success and ultimate victory. After more than nine years of conflict, 100,000 American troops remain on the ground there.

The White House offers comforting words about the progress made during the past year, but suggests the road to success is still long. This report's relatively benign analysis of events in Afghanistan must be compared with the considerably less positive assessment in two recent studies by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The administration report offers the usual if-only-Pakistan-would-engage arguments. Among its proposed options are increasing the $2 billion a year in U.S. aid to Pakistan, along with more pilotless drone and Special Forces attacks inside Pakistan - a course that would further expand the war beyond Afghanistan.

Taliban forces have pretty much stopped fighting for the winter. They have stepped back from U.S. troops in the south but recorded gains in the north. Casualties continue to rise, including more than 100 relief workers killed this year.

The effort by the United States to keep a corrupt and unpopular regime in power in Afghanistan has eerie echoes of the Vietnam war, except for the latter's Cold War aspects. The idea that the war can be won if only Pakistan could be brought on board also resembles how Cambodia and Laos were viewed in the earlier conflict.

As the war in Afghanistan drags on, the cost in casualties and money rises. The end of the war, in the form of complete U.S. withdrawal, has receded from 2011 to 2014.

The question becomes, even more clearly: When is enough enough? Unfortunately, President Obama's policy review offers no definitive answer.

Points of Interest
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