Mr. Obama, What are we doing in Afghanistan?

I am not a knee-jerk, across the board anti-war activist. Pretty close most of the time, but I do believe there are times when it’s not so black and white. For example, I have no moral qualms with a military campaign aimed at taking down Osama Bin Laden, or maybe even the top 10 of his lieutenants. But at what point is what we’re doing just sewing the seeds of hatred, and mobilizing future generations of Bin Ladens to the point where, well, there is no point in this anymore?

I was once a fervent supporter of the war in Afghanistan. But it seems to me that you can’t touch Afghanistan without a systemic approach to Pakistan, and you can’t understand Pakistan without understanding the complexities of its relationship to both Afghanistan and India. What was once a simple and clear mission — capturing and killing Al Queda — a mission that President Bush failed to execute completely but articulated successfully and one that President Obama has had more success in navigating, but we now seem lost in the mire of a war that has gone on too long, cost too much and, most important, lost too many lives towards an end that now seems unclear to me.

For example, why are we set to pull out in July 2011? Why not June or May? Why not September 2012? What if we pull out and we haven’t captured or killed Bin Laden? Why not triple the size of our troops if by decreasing them we’re showing holes in our strategy and hurting our ability to reach our stated goals?  Why not send 100 drones in and just start blowing up regions where there are known members of Al Queda? We had to risk the loss of thousands of innocent lives at the hands of Bin Laden… (I know the answer, I’m just being provacative).

What if Pakistan is playing nice with us now while they take our billion dollars of funding, but the moment we leave they unleash total chaos in the region due to their longstanding relationship with the Taliban, undermining the Afghan government and increasing the region’s stronghold as a haven for terrorists? We did indeed get some clarity from the President after the series of “AfPak” meetings, but what we’re missing now is a sense of exactly what we’re doing in Afghanistan now that things on the ground are “shifting,” as those in the political world like to say, and what the precise rules of engagement are. I spent nearly 10 years working on staff in Congress, and while that helps me gain insight on issues, I have to tell you that I may not be the brightest bulb in the closet on this one because I’m kind of lost now.

I sense a huge discrepancy between what’s really going on in Afghanistan on the ground, and the lofty rhetoric and goals the President offered us, and I’m just not sure, the way things stand, that what we’re doing now is worth the cost of someone’s life.  I know blog posts are supposed to be filled with invective and clarity, but this one leaves me with more questions than answers — maybe there are more people out there who are as confused as I am?

Jeff Kimball

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