Blowing It In Afghanistan & Pakistan

UPDATE: Thinking along the same lines, James Joyner posts a must-read, “Fixing Afghanistan.” (h/t Cernig).

There was a Nation Building effort supported by a vast majority of the American public and by the International Community. That effort was in Afghanistan, the country ruled cruelly by the Taliban. The country whose government aided and supported the Al Qaeda terrorists who committed the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, the Bush administration betrayed our support for this project by turning our resources away from this job and toward Iraq.

Today, we get more bad news from Afghanistan with reports of a horrific suicide bombing in the North with early estimates of 26 people dead, including four members of Parliament and a prominent leader of the Northern Alliance. Early speculation is that this is a strike by the Taliban against their old foes, the government co-opted Northern Alliance.

Yesterday, we learned that the Taliban, over the last week, have captured three districts in the western province of Farah. Also receiving little media attention is the fact that coalition troop deaths in Afghanistan have increased for four years in a row (with 205 dead in 2007 as compared to 191 in 2006).
How can this be? How can the Taliban have any success some 6 years after we invaded? How can the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have escaped justice and be safely ensconced in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Well, it’s because we are and always have been undercommitted in Afghanistan. I would have supported 100,000 plus American troops in Afghanistan and a true international coalition was ready and willing to provide a large number of troops to this region. Likewise, we need to focus a massive investment and reconstruction effort there. Think of the billions directed to Iraq that could have been put to greater use in Afghanistan. Think how much more would have come from the international community that would have more willingly followed our lead if we hadn’t veered off toward Iraq.

Our insincerity in Afghanistan has cost us immeasurably regarding the support we can now expect to receive from the International Community there.

But the problems with the Iraqi Diversion don’t just end in Afghanistan. A full commitment to Nation building in Afghanistan would have necessarily involved efforts to bring peace and economic growth to the Pakistan frontier and tribal areas that have also been dominated by Islamic fundamentalism. It would have also involved an international effort pushing for democratic reform in Pakistan.

This brings us full circle to the human rights abuses and freedom restricting actions of Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharaff. The media is portraying the situation as just oh-so difficult for a tightrope walking Bush. But it didn’t have to be that way. The world was with us for reform in Afghanistan and the necessary change such a massive effort could have brought to Pakistan.

The media needs to stop repeating Bush administration spin regarding the administration’s failure of policy regarding Pakistan and start question why things weren’t done differently years ago.

In my opinion, we need to start withdrawing from Iraq so that we can recommit and refocus on the most important foreign policy hotspots – Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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