Saturday, January 16, 2010

A never ending war

Several days each week we are greeted by the news of deaths in the Afghanistan War. Recently, several CIA employees were blown up by a suicide bomber. The methods of killing may vary, but Americans continue to die.

Of course, the war will continue for the foreseeable future. When announcing that he was authorizing an additional 30,000 troops for the conflict, President Obama stated that 2011 will likely be the time when American involvement may begin to decline.

However, don't expect the war to end then. American involvement may eventually wind down, but the bloodshed there will likely continue for a long time.

Afghanistan is a country accustomed to long conflicts as those who remember the 10-year struggle with the Soviet Union can attest. Rebels there know how to survive and battle super powers, which explains why our involvement there continues.

The radicalism of the Taliban is deeply entrenched, and their leaders possess both the commitment and the will to outlast American involvement. Hopefully, I am wrong, but it will take a lot of work to boot the Taliban.

This is not meant as a slap at the American effort. The efforts of our military have been tremendous, and the successes there will have a lasting impact. Giving an oppressed people a taste of democracy is about the best gift one nation can give another.

Unfortunately, Afghanistan's internal problems were there a long time before America arrived, and they will not be going anywhere soon. It is just that at some point the people there will have to take primary responsibility for the path their nation will take.

For the time being, the big question is how the ramp up of American troops will impact the war. This is a considerable re-commitment to the war and is necessary if we are to truly neutralize the Taliban.

When a troop surge took place in the Iraq War, it was a success and is the primary reason American involvement is winding down.

In a best case scenario, the same will happen in Afghanistan. However, just because an approach worked in Iraq does not mean it will work in Afghanistan.

A primary difference in the two situations is that the president has given a general timeline regarding when America may leave. While telling the public that a draw down might occur in 2011 may have political benefits for the president, it also provides a timeline for our enemies.

Therefore, as the current surge starts to take shape, our enemies have the advantage of knowing when our government will decide that enough is enough.

That is a pretty significant advantage especially when one is fighting an enemy that relies so much on guerilla tactics. Will the Taliban simply pull back and wait for 2011? Only time will tell.

By then, America may be pre-occupied with other fronts in the War on Terror. On Christmas Day, an al Qaeda operative tried to blow up an airplane as it was preparing to land in Detroit.

The attempt was traced back to an al Qaeda cell in Yemen, and that country may become the next hot spot when it comes to this effort. We may leave Afghanistan soon, but the struggle will continue.

The War on Terror is now more than eight years old. Our government should be commended that a major terrorist attack has not happened here since 2001.

However, we are kidding ourselves if we think this conflict is anywhere near being complete. This is not a very happy thought, but we are dealing with fanatics.

And fanatics do not give up easily.

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