All wars depress me, but this Afghanistan one in particular makes me want to scream. Why are we there? Theoretically, to hunt down Osama bin Laden and stop al Qaeda from using it as a base. But is al Qaeda still there? Is that likely to work? Is it even possible? And if it is possible, is it worth the cost?
Nice to see a high-ranking Democrat asking these questions, too:
The veteran chairman of the House Appropriations Committee posed a series of tough questions Thursday to his colleagues and the Obama administration about the wisdom of further U.S. engagement in that war-torn country.
Rep. David R. Obey , D-Wis., in a statement expressed significant skepticism about the prospects for success of any major effort to stabilize the country, either through additional U.S. troops or by a concerted effort to train more Afghan troops and improve the country’s governance and economy.
“The problem with increasing the number of troops is that we become the lightning rod, and our presence runs the risk of inciting more anti-American sentiment that can become a recruiting tool for the very forces we seek to curtail,” Obey said of one option President Obama is weighing.
“If any adjustment is made in U.S. troop levels, it would be much better if those troops were focused on the job of training Afghani troops and police to take on the job of securing the population and maintaining law and order,” he said. “But even there, we have to ask what is achievable. My understanding is that there have never been more than about 90,000 troops under the sway of the central government. Now we are told that the goal is to train up to 400,000 soldiers and police personnel. I think it is reasonable to ask whether that is a realistic and achievable goal.”
As for a policy bent on counter-insurgency and nation-building, Obey said, “We should be asking not what policy is theoretically the most intellectually coherent, but which policy is actually achievable given the only tools we have in the region; the Afghani and Pakistani governments. Is there sufficient leadership, popular support, and political will, not in the United States but in Afghanistan, necessary for effective governance to take hold? “
Equally important, he said, “Do we really have the tools to overcome language, culture, history and a 90 percent illiteracy rate to sufficiently transform such a country?”