President Barack Obama is dispatching another 4,000 troops in addition to the 17,000 that have been sent as reinforcements to Afghanistan. He insisted the new forces would “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” the Taliban” and he warned “if the Afghanistan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists.” Hopeful words and threats to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda play well on the six o’clock news but there is scant evidence they play as well in Afghanistan. The ironic aspect of Obama rhetoric is that he now mouths the words that George Bush has been saying for over seven years, but, of course, if they are said by Barack Obama the result will be different.
Shortly before his death, President John Kennedy refused to accede to requests by his closest staff to send more troops to Vietnam. He increasingly was becoming concerned the war in Vietnam could not be won unless there was an honest, effective South Vietnam government that was committed to social justice for its own people. After Kennedy got killed, Lyndon Johnson listened to the same Kennedy advisors but this time, he accepted their pleas and the result was the fiasco known as the Vietnam War.
Obama does emphasize the need to develop the civilian infrastructure, but this can not be accomplished if there is a corrupt government in power. Unfortunately, America has little leverage on the Afghanistan political scene. Send more troops, send more military equipment but nothing will replace a government run be efficient and effective leaders whose goals are social justice and economic development.
Just remember, President Obama, “Afghanistan is not ours to lose.” We don’t own it, and only Afghans can win or lose.