The Case For Afghanistan

, Sarah Carlsruh, Leave a comment

The U.S. and Britain are in Afghanistan primarily for reasons of national security, said the United Kingdom’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defense, Dr. Liam Fox. In a short address at the Heritage Foundation on September 18th, Dr. Fox addressed the war in Afghanistan and why America, Britain, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) need to stay until the war is won.

These groups are in Afghanistan “out of necessity, not choice,” said Fox, adding that the people need to be reminded of the reasons why these countries are in Afghanistan. The will of the people matters in a democracy, he said, and public opinion will erode if leaders do not make the reasons for being in Afghanistan clear. He warned people not to conflate the ideal of bringing democracy to Afghanistan with the necessity of bringing stability to a region which could otherwise be a haven for terrorists. The main goal of coalition forces is “to ensure that it does not become again a launch pad for terrorist attacks” and not to establish a Jeffersonian democracy, he said.

Dr. Fox argued that the path to stability should complement the top-down approach of government with a bottom-up approach because Afghans do not have a history of being ruled by a central government in Kabul. Due to the tribal history of the region, he said, coalition forces “should not try to impose an alien model on it.”
With Congressional liberals pressuring Obama to scale back, many question whether the U.S. should send more troops to Afghanistan. Dr. Fox disparaged the failure of his government to provide adequate funds to both Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts. However, he said that only increasing the number of ground troops would maintain the status quo, winning only some temporary battles, but that long-term stability would need a corresponding effort by coalition forces to stabilize the government. Using Iraq as an example, he pointed to the fact that Sunnis were re-engaged in political decision-making there.

If coalition forces lose, “it would send out the signal that we do not have the moral fortitude to see through what we believe to be a national security emergency,” warned Dr. Fox, asserting also that failure in Afghanistan “would be a shot in the arm for every jihadist across the globe.”

So if to be forced out of Afghanistan is a losing strategy, then what is a winning one? According to Dr. Fox, a victory in Afghanistan would be establishing a country that is stable or “stable enough” to resist the re-establishment of terrorist camps and threats to national security.

Unfortunately Afghanistan is only a part of the problem, argued Dr. Fox. He presented the war in Afghanistan as a package deal, identifying Pakistan as an integral part of the conflict. He advised the audience that Afghanistan and Pakistan be viewed as a single unit because both are vital to a stable region, and neither are stable nor have either been stable for decades. As a policy recommendation, he suggested that the U.S. support the Pakistan government in fighting the al-Qaeda network in its northwestern region.

However the U.S., Britain, and NATO choose to stabilize the region, Dr. Fox made it clear that those involved cannot afford to give up; “we need to find the will to see it through.”

Sarah Carlsruh is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

The Case for Afghanistan

, Daniel Allen, Leave a comment

Because of its important place near the top of Barack Obama’s to-do list, Afghanistan has been the subject of renewed attention since the inauguration. Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led a discussion this week at the Brookings Institution about the nature of the war in Afghanistan.

Senator Lieberman, who is considered a leader in Congress on defense issues, called Afghanistan “one of the most important challenges the Obama administration has inherited.” Referring to our advantages in the region, he called the U.S. military the “greatest counter-insurgency” team in the world and pointed hopefully to the wide-spread support of our efforts in Afghanistan.

However, the war will not be won, he said, dependent on “our ability to kill insurgents on the battlefield, but our ability to provide sustained security for the civilian population. By that critical measure today, we are failing in Afghanistan.”

During his remarks, Senator Lieberman detailed 5 “surges” that need to take place in Afghanistan for U.S. plans to succeed. He said that “despite the missteps and difficulties in Afghanistan, I am still confident that we can turn the tide there.”

“First, we need a surge in the strategic coherence of our effort. Our problem in Afghanistan today is not only that we have devoted too few resources, but that the resources we have devoted are being applied incoherently.” Lieberman continued that we owe the international community success, and can only give it to them if we are willing to provide renewed strength in the planning and leadership of the war effort.

“Second, we’ve got to insist that any military surge in Afghanistan is matched by a surge in civilian capacity. The U.S. embassy in Kabul needs to be transformed and expanded with the necessary resources and the explicit direction to work side by side with the military at every level.”

This civilian presence must not be confined to Kabul alone, however, but “must also be ramped up outside our embassy on the conventional district village level, embedding non-military experts among our troops as they move in.”

“Third, as the U.S. steps up its commitment to Afghanistan it is equally important that we help the Afghans surge with us. A year ago I called for a surge in the Afghan army. I am very encouraged that this is now happening, but more is required. We need to further expand the Afghan National Army beyond the current goal of 134,000 troops to at least 200,000 troops and we need to help equip them well.”

It is not only necessary to reinvigorate the army, Lieberman explained, but also to help build up the local police force and work to deter corruption in politics, which is “destroying the legitimacy of the Afghan government, diminishing its credibility among the Afghan people and fueling the insurgency.”

“Fourth, as many have observed, we can’t deal with Afghanistan in a vacuum. That’s why we also need a surge in regional strategy. Almost all of Afghanistan’s neighbors are active in some way inside the country.” Senator Lieberman noted that some of this involvement is positive—including investment and foreign aid. Some of the involvement, however, is detrimental, including the arming of insurgents.

The answer to this problem, the senator explained, is to strengthen Afghanistan itself through its established institutions so the country is less vulnerable to foreign meddling.

“Fifth and finally, and perhaps most importantly, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained, realistic and public commitment to the mission here at home.” Knowing that in the near future more troops will be required in Afghanistan, “we have an urgent responsibility to prepare the American people for this reality.”

Senator Lieberman closed his remarks by asking, “Why should we send tens of thousand of our loved ones to this remote country on the far side of the world?”

His answer: Afghanistan is the front line of an ideological war that must be won in order to keep Americans safe—it is where radical Islam has thrived in the past and where the attacks of 9/11 were planned, and where al Qaeda will continue to operate if we do not stop them.

“Failure in Afghanistan will make every problem in the region worse and harder to solve.”

Daniel Allen is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.


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