These are perplexing times. The terrorists attacked America. America attacked the terrorists – in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden had his base. But Osama Bin Laden escaped – and there is plenty of finger pointing blame for his escape. But we are where we are and what are we going to do?
The Taliban is resurging. Al Quaeda is regrouping. And more American soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year than in any year since 2001. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is viewed as a weak leader. Elections are coming up next year. The questions are of defining American priorities.
It seems to this writer that a stable Afghanistan government favorable to the United States is critical. But does that government have to be designed by the United States? That is to say – does that government have to be a mirror of our Democracy? The Bush Administration has been insisting on a particular form of democracy – hoping to plant the seeds of democracy across the middle east. This may be a noble idea – but it may also be impractical.
Afghanistan culture is somewhere back in the dark ages. Except that they have a bunch of automatic weapons and RPG’s. The country is divided along tribal boundaries with Tribal Leaders appointed by the rule of violent interaction. Some folks in NATO and some European diplomats have suggested the country might stabilize more quickly if the central governing body were selected by the Tribal Leaders. Bush and Cheney have rejected this idea.
Several years ago most of us agreed with Bush and Cheney and their Afghanistan strategy. Now we have the example of history to inform us – are the strategies working? Should we hold the course? We must define our mission and priorities. The original mission was to topple the Taliban and Al Quaeda. The idea was very clear and simple – a stable government with no support of terrorists and no Islamic extremism. Somewhere along the line the mission became one of nation building in our own image.
Also missed along the way was the original purpose of being in Afghanistan – the capture or death of the people responsible for the terrorist attacks on the United States. Most accounts today have Bin Laden residing in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan – and some say entirely in Pakistan. The problems in this region have been compounded by the failure to stabilize Afghanistan and the failure to capture Bin Laden – resulting in the complications of fighting in other sovereign nations.
Priorities should be reestablished. We must rebuild our relationships with Europe – gaining their support in the conflict in Afghanistan. We must have a stable government in Afghanistan, friendly to our purpose. And we must destroy Al Quaeda. A stable government will not be achieved until the people of Afghanistan accept that government as their own. The ultimate assault on Osama Bin Laden, most probably in the mountains of Pakistan, will best be done with the support of the world community.