Sunday, September 10, 2006

An uphill battle in Afghanistan, says expert

Security analyist Peter Bergen has a very good op-ed piece in today's Washington Post, about the resurgence of the Taliban and the tough time NATO has had in regaining the upper hand. He points out there is a definitive link between the rise of the opium trade and increased attacks. Further, as we've come to know all too well, a lot of donations to "charities" wind up in the pockets of the terrorists. Bergen refers to a raid of a Taliban "safe house" where about $900 K US of cash was found -- enough to feed a terrorist insurgency by a small band for months.

The Taliban has eseentially one motto: No surrender. Thus, the battle to win the hearts and minds of ordinary people, which is an uphill battle to begin with. There's also a need to redevelop the country's infrastructure, much more than in Iraq; but as Bergen points out, more than five times have been spent in Iraq so far than what has been pledged for Afghanistan, and only a portion of that money has come through so far. About the only major public works project of significance so far built in Iraq since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, that I'm aware of, was the long shelved highway between Kabul and Kandahar, which the West built in a matter of months. In a country where many can't even afford to ride the bus, it's going to take a lot more than that.

It doesn't take an expert like Bergen to point out what we in the blogosphere have said for months -- the Taliban must be destroyed, and the only way to do that is to kill the opium trade and to demand Pakistan plug the holes in the porous border region. Time is running out, and Afghanistan could surely become a failed state as much as Iraq has. We can't let both fall, because then Iran will really become the region's superpower.

In that light, NATO's call for another 5000 troops is really lowballing it on top of the 18,000 already there. To get the job done right, I think they're going to need another fifty thousand. The Bush Administration is not about to redirect a third of its enforcements in Iraq to another country ... and given the lack of goodwill there already is, as well as the mounting casualties, I'm not sure too many other countries are about to line up either. However, I say this is one case where we must do whatever it takes.

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