Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Situation In Afghanistan Deteriorates For U.S. And NATO

In his 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Ghost Wars: The History of the CIA, Afghanistan And Bin Laden," Steve Coll of the Washington Post described in detail how, following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States neglected the country, allowing the Taliban to seize power and provide a base for Osama bin Laden.

Now, according to a lengthy New York Times analysis of the Afghan situation since the U.S. deposed the Taliban regime shortly after 9-11, writer David Rohde on Tuesday describes how the situation has come to deteriorate once again, with an inadequate U.S. commitment leading to a resurgence of Taliban forces.

The Bush Administration, according to this well-documented report, put inadequate military manpower and economic assistance into Afghanistan in 2002 and later, allowing the economy and security situation to drift ominously, and now we, and the NATO forces which have come in to supplement the U.S. military, face a battle. Taliban has seized important parts of southern Afghanistan.

The fighting has so much increased in intensity, according to Rohde, that the chances of a U.S. soldier being killed while on duty in Afghanistan have nearly reached the chances in Iraq. Also, 25 Canadian soldiers and 34 British soldiers have been killed in recent months. (On Thursday, the NATO commander, Gen. James L. Jones, asked NATO countries to send several hundred reinforcements to Afghanistan).

There was further bad news this week when it was revealed that the pitifully weak Musharraf regime in Pakistan has agreed to pull its forces out of areas in Pakistan adjacent to the Afghan border which the Taliban and bin Laden have been using as a privileged sanctuary to launch their attacks in Afghanistan. A Pakistani general is quoted as saying this morning that as long as bin Laden lives in peace, there will be no effort to capture him on the Pakistani side.

Supposedly, in exchange for this largess, the Taliban forces have agreed to cease attacking across the border. But this assurance is probably worth just what most Muslim fundamentalist promises are worth: nothing.

Wednesday, in a meeting in Kabul between Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, it was reported that Musharraf had given assurances Pakistan would help fight the Taliban. Musharraf, however, frequently makes promises and does not deliver.

One has to wonder whether the entire struggle in which the U.S. has been engaged since 9-11, to prevent large places from opening in the world to control of the terrorists, is not in jeopardy. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, the terrorists seem on the ascendancy and in Iran, the fascist regime defies a U.N. mandate and continues to try to develop an atomic bomb. Already, as is typical of the U.N., countries such as Russia and China, which voted for the resolution are backing away from any idea of sanctions. The U.N. is about as effective in matters of this sort as the old League of Nations was against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

With the midterm elections in the U.S. approaching, there is every likelihood at the moment that Democrats without stomach for the war will gain sway over Congress and be in a position to put even more pressure on a Bush Administration, which according to these developments have not been getting the job done as it is.

There are many Americans, not to mention Europeans, these days who seem to feel that if only we were to withdraw from Iraq and reduce our commitments in the Middle East, all would be well.

This, in my view, is the greatest folly. The Muslim extremists, already spreading their violence to Europe and beyond, will not accept a U.S. retreat with anything but increased militancy. If they come to control the area's oil resources, American and European economic solvency will be sorely jeopardized.

Can we live safely in a world that sees the terrorists take over in Afghanistan, Iraq and soon, other countries in the Middle East? I don't think so. The danger from a nuclear-armed Iran and Pakistan, and a barbaric Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East would be immense to the American people and to Europe, including Russia, as well.

Yet the political atmosphere in the U.S. and Europe, and the all-too-apparent inadequacies of the Bush Administration create these terrible prospects.

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