Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN….Hmmm. It’s increasingly looking like Col. Tu’s famous aphorism about the Vietnam war is not only true about Iraq, but also about Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports:

Over the past year, all combat encounters against the Taliban have ended with “a very decisive defeat” for the extremists, Brig. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., commander of the U.S. task force training the Afghan army, told reporters this month….But one senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed was not authorized to discuss Afghanistan on the record, said such gains are fleeting.

….At the moment, several officials said, their concern is focused far more on the domestic situation in Afghanistan, where increasing numbers are losing faith in Karzai’s government in Kabul. According to a survey released last month by the Asia Foundation, 79 percent of Afghans felt that the government does not care what they think, while 69 percent felt that it is not acceptable to publicly criticize the government.

There’s a lot of blame to go around for this state of affairs. Obviously our obsession with Iraq is #1 on the hit parade, but it’s equally true that our NATO allies haven’t exactly stepped up to the plate in Afghanistan either.

Then again, maybe Afghanistan is a war we can’t win no matter what we do. After all, a lot of people have argued that pacifying and democratizing Iraq was impossible from the start, regardless of how many troops we had or what strategy we used, and if this view is right for Iraq, why not for Afghanistan too? As it happens, I’ve never bought into this idea entirely, but I admit it’s persuasive. And frankly, Afghanistan is probably a tougher nut than Iraq, which means it’s even more persuasive in this case.

So what’s the conventional wisdom these days? The presidential candidates don’t talk about Afghanistan much, do they? The Republicans, of course, can’t, since there’s really nothing they can offer, but what about the Dems? Do they support (a) pulling troops out of Iraq and beefing up our presence in Afghanistan, (b) staying the course, or (c) pulling out? As near as I can tell, the answer is (a) for all three of the leading Democratic candidates — though they haven’t said so either loudly or in much detail. That’s probably what I think too, but I wonder if that’s just because I haven’t thought about it very hard?