The situation in Afghanistan is very bad. If we leave, the consequences will be dire, not least for the many hopeful and trusting Afghans who have taken our side against the monstrous Taliban; those who have cooperated with us will surely be slaughtered. And if we give up the fight, it is not hard to imagine how things will go in Pakistan, nor to imagine the enormous danger that fundamentalist control of the region (and of Pakistan’s nuclear arms and seaports) would pose to the rest of the world.
If we stay, on the other hand, then we will have to fight harder; we are losing ground. We will need a deeper commitment of resources, both military and civilian. But even if we redouble our efforts, it seems very unlikely indeed that we will ever create a reliable, democratic, self-sufficient ally there. Our forces, advisors, and allies will be under constant, patient attack, forever. It will cost us a steady stream of lives and money, and will be a persistent drain on our military and economic strength.
There are no good options.
The noted war correspondent Michael Yon is ever so slightly less pessimistic than I am; he writes:
Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan “a developing nation.” The war will not take that long – but the effort will.
There are no short-term solutions to fix this place. We are planting acorns. Oak trees grow slowly.
He also says that “Pundits who are saying we should pull out of Afghanistan today, to my knowledge, are not here.” He’s right about that.
Mr. Yon has made available an enormously informative presentation outlining the current situation in Afghanistan, and making the case for reinforcements. It’s here.
Meanwhile, a declassified version of General Stanley McChrystal’s grim assessment and request for additional forces is available online as well. Here.
As General McChrystal says in the first sentence of his report, the stakes in Afghanistan are high. This is an understatement. If you have an opinion about this war, you should care enough to be well-informed. Read these documents.