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John Hughes

Obama: Don't give up on Afghanistan

He should approve the additional troops General McChrystal wants.

By John Hughes / September 30, 2009

Provo, Utah

During the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama maintained that Iraq was the wrong war for the US and Afghanistan was the right one.

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Now he seems to be having second thoughts. But in one of the most stark warnings a field commander has ever delivered to his president, Gen. Stanley McChrystal has declared that, without a rapid infusion of more troops, the war will "likely result in failure." He is surely frustrated with White House ponderings about whether the US has the "right strategy" in Afghanistan.

Well, the strategy is pretty clear. It is to make Afghans secure enough to reject the Taliban and their Al Qaeda mentors.

As Margaret Thatcher once said to another American president, in another war, this is no time to "go wobbly." President Obama should approve the dispatch of additional troops to Afghanistan that McChrystal is requesting.

Nobody can take lightly the decision to send more young US soldiers into combat. Nobody can guarantee that the outcome will be positive. The terrain in Afghanistan is forbidding. Hamid Karzai's reelected government lacks credibility.

But as expert Stephen Biddle testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month: "Few Afghans want to return to the medieval [Taliban] theocracy they endured before. Most Afghans want education for their daughters, they want access to media and ideas from abroad, they want freedom from thugs enforcing fundamentalism for all."

Though the challenges in Afghanistan might seem daunting, there are some positive factors.

The consensus seems to be that the Al Qaeda leadership hunkered down in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region is accompanied by 150 to 500 hard-core fighters. The US and allies have been successful in recent weeks in taking out senior Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Somalia, and Indonesia.