A Veteran’s Perspective on the Afghanistan Surge

As of late there has been much discussion about the decision by President Obama to deploy more troops to Afghanistan.  Having first hand knowledge of the situation through two combat deployments there myself, I fully support that decision.

The introduction to a recent opinion piece in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof is a hypothetical story of why the local populace in Afghanistan supports the Taliban and not the US troops whose presence there is meant to protect them. He goes so far as describing the Taliban as pious and honest; The same Taliban that kills innocent civilians not abiding by their anarchistic orders and encourages the stoning of women for moral transgressions, while harboring and training the very terrorists who murdered thousands of innocent American civilians on September 11, 2001. These, to name a few, accompany a slew of egregious acts of this so-called “pious” Taliban.

He continues by comparing the shoes President Obama wears on this War on Terror to that of Lyndon Johnson’s during Vietnam.  Our current conflict is nothing like Vietnam in terms of origin and it has no chance of yielding the kinds of casualties witnessed in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  We have had defined strategies from the beginning that have focused on supporting the local populace, not attacking them.  The all-volunteer army and police forces the U.S. has fielded are a testament to that support.

Decreasing efforts to defeat the poisonous influence of an ever-growing Taliban would mean that, after having come nearly eight years since first entering into Afghanistan, it would be all for not.   No amount of monetary investment will fuel the necessary educational growth within the country, as it will inevitably flow through the sieve that is the unstable Afghanistan, as we know it.

I believe the path to success is through education.  However, if we allow these terrorist groups to grow and take hold of a nation they’ve done nothing but destroy, then no amount of school building (and re-building and re-building and…) will matter.  Without the security that the increased troops will provide, that sieve which is Afghanistan will take the money and put it to no good use.  Our presence there is absolutely, without a doubt, necessary for the work that has been done thus far to bring a permanent change to a country currently defeated by a terrorist group.

The Taliban move into towns, kill elected officials to establish dominance and commit extortion, acting in no way like a pious and honest lot.  Afghans may not be too keen on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, but at the end of the day they realize that without us, the Taliban have free reign.  If the Afghan populace begins to think that the Americans are just passing through from one valley to the next, offering no real security and are uncommitted to their cause, our presence this entire war will have been moot as the Taliban will regain control and instill the terror so familiar to Afghanis.  Our troop levels in Afghanistan have been dangerously low for years. Until we sustain higher levels for an extended period of time until a point President Obama advises we will be unable to effectively defeat the Taliban, never truly establishing a lasting and secure country.

Only after we give Afghanistan the type of security wherein they are able to operate freely in their daily lives should we continue to put money into building schools and expanding the country’s infrastructure.  Only then will those monetary investments be able to offer a return that is acceptable.

An even more recent article by Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse from the Huffington Post, cite the U.S. military having a 666:1 advantage over the estimated number of Al-Qaeda.  While the sheer numbers may be close to true, the number of ‘actual’ soldiers, sailors, and marines fighting Al-Qaeda head-to-head in the fields and mountains of Afghanistan is on much more even ground.  While the U.S. and NATO forces do whatever is in their power to protect the civilian population during the fighting, Al-Qaeda does not.  In order for the civilian population to be sufficiently protected and the enemy sufficiently defeated, we need to increase the real-time U.S. troop to Al-Qaeda ratio significantly.

The current surge does this and time will tell if is it sufficient enough.

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One thought on “A Veteran’s Perspective on the Afghanistan Surge

  1. Lisa Battaglino says:

    Tim, Thanks for this insightful view of our presence in Afghanistan. I agree with you that better educational opportunities for all of the people in Afghanistan are the only way to improving the many issues they face. Your informed optimism on the potential for the U.S. military to make a positive change in Afghanistan is both enlightening and encouraging. LB

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