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Shouldn’t NATO be winning in Afghanistan by now?

The Independent is asking some tough questions overt the lack of progress in Afghanistan.

Twelve months ago, Marjah was a ghost town, deep in rural Helmand province and deep in the grip of the Taliban. The bazaar was closed and those who could run had fled; the rest cowered in their homes.

It was never going to be easy to take from the Taliban. More than 120 Taliban and at least 60 coalition and Afghan troops paid the price with their lives. Today, the Afghan national flag flies over the town, the schools are open and the opium trade is under attack. Marjah is crawling back to something approaching normality.

"Security is good now. Life is better," Gul Ahmed, a wheat farmer, told the Kansas City Star. "Bad people like the Taliban cannot come here now. They took money from us. They took food from us. They forced us to go with them to other provinces to fight."

Twelve months ago, Marjah was a ghost town, deep in rural Helmand province and deep in the grip of the Taliban. The bazaar was closed and those who could run had fled; the rest cowered in their homes.

It was never going to be easy to take from the Taliban. More than 120 Taliban and at least 60 coalition and Afghan troops paid the price with their lives. Today, the Afghan national flag flies over the town, the schools are open and the opium trade is under attack. Marjah is crawling back to something approaching normality.

"Security is good now. Life is better," Gul Ahmed, a wheat farmer, told the Kansas City Star. "Bad people like the Taliban cannot come here now. They took money from us. They took food from us. They forced us to go with them to other provinces to fight.

Successive military surges have pushed the Taliban out of towns like this across Afghanistan. If the coalition partners are to meet their target of withdrawing from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, they must maintain their momentum – or at least hold the ground they have gained. At a time when President Obama talks bullishly about beginning to reduce the number of troops, even standing still is an ordeal. More than 7,000 Nato and Afghan troops took part in the battle of Marjah a year ago; today, some 2,000 US marines remain.

"If the marines left," said Sidar Mohammad, who owns a bakery in Marjah’s Loy Chareh market, "the Taliban would be back in two weeks."

I am not sure when the shift was that wars have timelines to end by.  So the President says the war will end in 2014, is that a military or a political decision (I think we know the answer).  If the U.S. government is interested in security, why not leave a division in Afghanistan?  They left tens of thousands of troops in Japan after WWII, Korea, and Europe which went a long way in providing security for the region.  I know this is a different kind of war than facing down the Soviet Union but can you imagine if JFK or any other US president had said that, “We’ll be out of Germany no later than 1970” or Reagan said, we will only continue new weapons program development until 1990.

I struggle with the Afghanistan mission as much as anyone but a fixed withdrawal date makes little sense to me and seems to defy common sense.

One Comment

  1. Vigilante says:

    What are you saying? You think we can afford to be in Afghanistan indefinitely now that we are broke more than we could have afforded to stay in Vietnam when we weren’t broke?

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