Sunday, October 11, 2009

Think Long and Hard Before Escalating Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Internationally, one of the most controversial issues facing the Obama administration today is whether or not we should commit up to 40,000 more (or a lesser number) American troops to a recalibrated war strategy in the country of Afghanistan. There are emotional arguments on both sides of the issue but for the economic well being of this country in both the short and long term I would argue that the seriousness of our domestic problems trumps any perceived benefit to dedicate another "surge" to this part of the world. Afghanistan is a poor and rugged country with a corrupt and inefficient government that oversees a populace of mostly illiterate people. U.S. troops have been seeking out the Taliban/al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers for over eight years now. U.S. war dead now number nearly 800 with hundreds more wounded. At one time it appeared that the U.S. mission had achieved some success with the Taliban presence in the country supposedly weakened and many reported high level al Qaeda leaders killed or on the run and/or taking up new residence in neighboring Pakistan. More recently, however, it appears that the Taliban forces have become more bold with greater numbers and weapons, including an increased implementation of the dangerous IEDs that have claimed so many American lives in Iraq. From a military perspective, it is not a surprise that the thinking of military leaders would be to counter the Taliban's boldness with more American troops. But how many more would be enough? Will an additional 40,000 be enough or after this surge will military leaders then claim that they'll need another 40,000 or even more fresh troops to accomplish a successful mission? What criteria will define a "victory with honor?" When will it stop? I'm no military expert but history and the military mind have shown vividly in Vietnam and even Iraq that no number of troops is ever enough and more requests in the future are almost inevitable. After Iraq, the current unprecendented economic times at home, mind-boggling trillion dollar deficits and a country mired in political gridlock can we afford a major escalation in Afghanistan at this time? I respect the views of others and am truly thankful for the sacrifices of American military families wherever loved ones may be stationed throughout the world, but I fear that the military thirst for more will never be quenched and decisions need to be made for a more rifle shot focus of the al-Qaida core be this in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Then governmental leaders need to shift its "war" effort to right here within our borders to create jobs for the millions of unemployed, ensure affordable healthcare for all, stamp out hunger and homelessness, upgrade our infrastructure--roads, bridges, the utilities' grid, raise the standards of public education to the heights of other countries of the world, on and on. Yes, we need to think long and hard about Afghanistan and whether increased troop levels will truly make a difference. One could argue whether any troop level, no matter how high, will ever be enough to combat world extremists and/or their sympathizers who are now surgically implanting explosives into their own bodies taking suicide bombing to an almost unthinkable level. America cannot do it alone and the problems at home need the greater attention and financial support at this time. I fear negative forces more within than those in a distant part of the world.

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