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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Call for Mission Change in Afghanistan

By: Ryan Jaroncyk, THL Contributor

In my recent blog, "Make a choice: contain Al Qaeda or nation build in Afghanistan," I endorsed George Will's proposal for a more limited and focused mission.

Now, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Ralph Peters, has issued a similar proposal in the New York Post. Like Will, Peters advocates a more narrowly defined mission, one that specifically targets Al-Qaeda and any unabashed cohorts, instead of expending endless amounts of blood and treasure on rebuilding a corrupt nation-state.

If adopted, such an approach would likely save hundreds of billions of dollars, decrease the casualty count by thousands, lower suicide rates and PTSD in the military, prevent a resurgence of Al-Qaeda safe havens, and inspire the Afghanis to fight for their own future.

Most conservatives, however, appear to be quite reluctant to adopt this type of approach. Much like Iraq, they are far more willing, at this time, to sign off on thousands more troops. Their rationale? It worked in Iraq, so it will work in Afghanistan. But, perhaps their premise is flawed.

If they define "victory" as having 131,000 troops stationed in a third-world country, six years after the initial invasion, that still cannot govern or protect itself without a vast American presence and monetary commitment, then perhaps they're justified in their logic.

But, for many people, this is not victory at all. In addition, this view point completely neglects the vast differences between the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, as articulated by Cato foreign policy analyst, Malou Innocent in a recent Huffington Post article.

Also ignored by most conservatives is a cost-estimate, time table, or casualty estimate in any further troop escalations. No talk about the trillion dollar budget deficits, skyrocketing national debt, or falling Dollar. And nothing about escalating PTSD and suicide rates due to repeated, extended deployments. It's as if these realities don't even exist.

On the other side of the fence, not too many "liberal" commentators or analysts are offering viable, alternative plans to the current strategy. President Obama appears a bit resistant to yet another troop increase at this time, which is completely understandable, yet in the meantime, we have 68,000 troops floating in a raging war theater with no clear mission, no clear benchmarks, no clear definition of success, and no clear exit strategy.

They could not be in a worse situation. And for the last three months, military deaths have spiked to record levels in Afghanistan. Obama, if he is truly resistant to further troop escalations, needs to make up his mind about a new strategy, and he needs to make up his mind very, very soon, not in a few months. Our brave men and women deserve immediate resolution, nothing less.

Finally, as the debate over the war in Afghanistan ramps up, the 2010 liberty candidates possess a great opportunity to offer their own proposals, solutions, and alternatives. The American people are waiting for an articulate, specific alternative to the current strategy. They're begging for a different way.

Most conservatives are offering nothing new, and most "liberals" are paralyzed. Now is the time for these candidates to step up to the plate and fill the void.