A truly multinational force is moving Afghanistan forward

The assertions made in Carl Robichaud's Sept. 21 Opinion piece, "Failings of the Rumsfeld doctrine," that "America's efforts in Afghanistan ... are unraveling" due in part to America's supposed failure to lead a "genuinely multinational force" are baseless.

Today, NATO holds operational responsibility for over three-quarters of Afghanistan. Some 20,000 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO nations are committed to the effort. (This is in addition to the roughly 20,000 US forces in the country.) One wonders exactly how many countries need to be involved before a mission moves from being a "handful of Western countries" to "genuinely multinational" in Mr. Robichaud's book.

The only efforts that are "unraveling" are those of our enemies, as Qari Mohammed Yousaf Ahmadi, generally viewed as the Taliban's chief spokesman, stated on Sept. 15: "The Taliban forces have conducted a tactical retreat."

As Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commanding general of Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan noted last month: "NATO and US-led coalition and Afghan national security forces are moving aggressively to deny the enemy safe havens, to interdict his movement roots, and most importantly to extend the authority of the central government.... [T]he progress we're making in Afghanistan is significant."
Dorrance Smith
Assistant secretary of defense for public affairs

Only one good option in Iraq

With all due respect, Jeffrey Shaffer's Oct. 6 Opinion column "Note to self (and America): Guard your options," does not offer any options or solutions to dealing with Iraq. I agree that we should have explored our options before invading Iraq, but we are now in Iraq. We have broken it, and now we have to fix it. I would have liked to have read a piece that provides a solution.

I don't see how we can do much else right now but "stay the course" until we have stability in Iraq.

So our options right now are either stay in Iraq and finish the job, or leave and deal with the consequences – consequences such as loss of international credibility and the formation of a prosperous terrorist state with the ability to develop and use WMD, to name a few.
Carlos Martinez
Brigham, Utah

Play sports for fun, not to win

I am writing regarding the Oct. 6 article, "Fast track toward pro sports starts younger." As a high school senior who plays softball, I completely agree with the idea that youth sports have morphed into a negative thing for many young people. I quit my varsity team last year halfway through the season because I could not deal with the coach, certain parents, and just the overall mentality of most of the players. Politics is meant for Washington, not the field.

As a summer camp counselor who teaches, among other things, softball, I try to encourage the ideals of teamwork and personal progress in my campers – but it is hard when most of the kids play on tournament teams beginning at the age of 6. They are just groomed to win and it shows when they insult each other after getting out or making a bad play.

I didn't start playing sports to win; I started because I found something I enjoy doing. It is too bad that more and more kids are viewing sports as a chore or a job when sports should be something that fosters activity, fun, and personal growth.
Kelsey Lucas
Moraga, Calif.

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