I hope it’s no secret that I remain torn on the path ahead in Afghanistan. I think we’ve got the right military leadership, and I think that the plan that leadership has put forward offers our best hope of success. But even with a smart plan and good leadership, I’m pessimistic about our chances of truly gaining control of the situation in Afghanistan.
Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan, gave voice to a lot of those doubts in a recent speech. He had much the same reaction to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan assessment as I did. It was largely candid and honest, but in places it seemed to be arguing against the very policy it was proposing.
McGeogh’s summation of the situation in Afghanistan, where he has visited 20 times by his count, is chilling:
“The Taliban is stronger, more violent and more in control than at any time since it was dislodged from Kabul in 2001. Foreign forces, mostly American, are dying at a greater rate and hundreds of billions of dollars are being squandered for no apparent return. Public and political support for the war has peaked and now is declining in the U.S. and in other coalition countries. As Hamid Karzai continues to demonstrate with his election fraud and his response to its exposure – the Kabul Government is rotten from the top.”
He concludes that after eight years of occupation, it’s probably too late to essentially start over again. “The McChrystal blueprint might have worked in Year Two or even in Year Five of the conflict – and I stress ‘might have’ – but at this stage it’s too little and it’s too late,” he writes.