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Afghanistan: progress or a gargantuan waste of money?

December 16, 2010 |  3:16 pm


The White House released a status report of President Obama’s military strategies in Afghanistan. The takeaway message: We’re making headway, but we need to stay on it.

 In two separate Op-Eds about Afghanistan this week, contributors took opposing views.

The U.S. is making worthwhile progress…

Say Peter Mansoor, a professor of military history at the Ohio State University and formerly an Army colonel who served two combat tours in Iraq, and Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations…

“But in any far-off guerrilla war, perception back home often lags battlefield reality by several months. It certainly did in Iraq during the "surge" in 2007. So too in Afghanistan, where the buildup of U.S. forces, completed only this fall, is already having a considerable impact, although public opinion hasn't caught on yet.

During a recent 10-day visit at [Army Gen. David H. Petraeus’] invitation, we found a classic, and successful, counterinsurgency campaign being conducted in the south. We drove around Kandahar city and saw markets flourishing. Children who once threw stones at American vehicles now wave at our soldiers. As we went north into the Arghandab River Valley — a Taliban stronghold until a few months ago — we found numerous American and Afghan outposts and soldiers patrolling on foot between them. […]

It will require continued patience and sacrifice, but this is a war that we must, and can, win.”

No we’re not, and it’s wasting U.S. taxpayer dollars…

Says Mike Honda, a Democrat representing California's 15th District in the House of Representatives...

“Although the poll results showed some bright spots, after spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, security and day-to-day life in many regions of Afghanistan aren't improving. When asked if crime and violence, economic opportunity and freedom of movement are getting better, worse or staying the same, most Afghans stated that things were worse on all three fronts. Availability of electricity, food, medical care and schools has shown little or no improvement in recent years, they said. Afghans are witnessing more violence, not less; their support for the war, according to the survey, is diminishing. Nearly six out of 10 Afghans said Western troops should leave on or before the original July 2011 withdrawal date; only 17% say the deployment should be maintained longer.

What the Afghans see, or don't see, on the ground is a strong sign of a particular American failure there: too little oversight and accountability for billions of taxpayer dollars pouring into that nation.”

What do you think? Are we making progress is Afghanistan, or is it time to call the whole thing off and funnel the money back into our economy?


Winning in Afghanistan

The Afghan money pit

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Sanderson, 24, from Flemington, N.J., shouts as he tries to protect an Afghan man and his child after Taliban fighters opened fire in the town of Marja, in Helmand province, on  Feb. 13. Credit: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

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