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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Where Are We Going in Afghanistan?

This piece is not about the replacement of General McCrystal by General Petraeus after McCrystal’s sad interview with Rolling Stone magazine. It is about what is at stake for the United States and our allies in Afghanistan.

Let us look at a little history. First, there is no dispute that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon emanated from Afghanistan. The training took place there, and large contingents of the Taliban are based in parts of the country.

Next, take a look at some of the facts about Afghanistan. With around 29 million people, it is slightly smaller than Texas. It has a GDP of only $800 per capita compared to our GDP of around $46,000 per capita.

Afghanistan is a land locked country sharing large portions of its border with Iran and Pakistan. In addition, other nations share small portions of the border — Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. In addition China has a 47-mile border, as well. Beyond the physical location, the mountains and deserts make it a difficult place for our military to operate.

If we were to abandon Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the Taliban and supporters of Osama bin Laden would, again, take over the country. Past military ventures in the country have not gone well. As far back as 1839, the British military lost all but one soldier in a thrust through Afghanistan’s Khyber Pass. Then, Russians could not quell a revolution in the 1980s.

In the past, Taliban rulers were responsible for blasting Buddha Sculptures off of the mountains – sculptures carved centuries ago. Taliban rulers would not allow any religious symbols other than the sign of Islam.

With all of the above laid out, now come with me to where we are in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that General Petraeus is fully competent for his current assignment. And there is no doubt that President Obama has declared his support for getting the job done in Afghanistan. But, just what is that “job”?

That brings me to the President’s declaration that the United States will turn over the military responsibility to Afghan forces and “…allow us to begin the transfer of our troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011.” That statement was very naïve. Let me explain why.

Telling your enemy that you will be starting to quit your effort on a certain day in the future does not make sense. Well guess what the Taliban will do? They will relax, continue to train, leave parts of Afghanistan and then as we are on the way out, they will, again, take over Afghanistan. Telegraphing our approach in Afghanistan to an enemy was a poor and sad strategy. To declare an end to our effort in Afghanistan was a “political” statement – a statement based on elections in the United States and not the security of our country!

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