Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In and out in 18 months ...

... that is essentially what President Obama told the cadets at West Point tonight, when he announced a "mega-surge" of 30,000 troops to begin next month. As before, he also called upon NATO and other allies to start pulling more weight.

I noticed the strategy map they were using on CNN, and it is troubling. Countries like Germany, Lithuania, France, Sweden -- all have troops in the north of the country where there isn't as much trouble as there is in the south and along the border with Pakistan. There where the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Turkey and some others have troops -- that's where the war is the toughest and the slog the longest. One can appreciate the apprehension of sending troops into harm's way but isn't that what they were trained for? Isn't Al Qaeda a danger to lesser powers as much as to the middle and large ones?
A few thousand troops in Kandahar will certainly take the pressure off of Canada for a while as we can get out of Kandahar City and out into the back country where the Taliban is hiding out. But I have to say that 18 months to get out not just the surge but all combat troops is a very ambitious schedule. It's timed smartly, for July 2011 which is just at the edge point for a Democrat who might want to challenge Obama for the nomination in 2012.
I do agree that unlike Vietnam, the US has a lot of allies on side. But that is no match for knowledge of the land, and even with satellite mapping closing the advantage in the last few years we're going to need human intelligence and to win the trust of local tribal leaders if we have any chance of ensuring that Afghanistan is not a failed state. Not to mention the security threat if command and control of Pakistan's nukes ever fell into the wrong hands.

What is Canada being asked for? We have, what, 3000 there already. We might be able to spare a few hundred more but we're stretched to the limit. We and the States can't do it alone. It's time for those who haven't put in troops to do so, and for those who have to move them to where they're actually needed. If we have only 18 months, let's get it done right once and for all. But if Karzai doesn't move to actually clean up the corruption within the country, then the exit strategy and an immediate pull out is required.

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