As Sean Hannity pointed out last night on his Fox program, decisive battles in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II were won in less time than it is taking President Obama to make a decision on the recommendation of his hand-picked Afghanistan ground commander, General McChrystal, for 40,000 more troops. We are at 52 days and counting.
One of the reasons given for the delay is the political uncertainty caused by the fraudulent election in Afghanistan in which Hamid Karzai was the apparent winner. Now, under pressure from the international community including the United States, Karzai has announced his acceptance of a runoff election to be held on November 7th. But what’s to prevent a replay of the first election, concerning which a UN-backed international election commission concluded that about a third of the ballots cast were fraudulent?
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked at a press briefing yesterday at UN headquarters that I attended whether polling stations in regions of the country controlled by the Taliban, where it would be difficult to police them, should be open as they were in the first round, he said that it was “not acceptable” to reduce the number of polling stations “just to prevent possible fraud”.
Even if the run-off election can be pulled off in three weeks time, fraud is not just a possibility – it is highly likely.
President Obama’s military advisors and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are telling Obama that in order to prevent a re-establishment of Taliban sanctuaries for al Qaeda and to provide security for the population as well as for our own soldiers already there, more troops are needed right away. His political advisors, such as Rahm Emanuel, are more concerned about opposition from his left-wing anti-war base here at home and are using the Afghan election as an excuse for delay. The political advisors appear to be winning Obama’s ear. Emanuel said last Sunday that Obama would not make a decision on troops until the political uncertainy in Afghanistan had lifted.
Our military strategy should not be held hostage to Afghan politics. Nor should we really care about local Taliban pockets of strength in rural areas. We are not there for nation-building purposes which, in Afghanistan particularly, would be a long drawn out exercise ending in probable failure.
The sole mission should be to defeat al Qaeda by denying them any safe sanctuary in Afghanistan. Only where our intelligence detects Taliban-controlled places of refuge for al Qaeda or other foreign Islamic terrorists should we strike with drones first and then with ground troops if necessary backed by full air cover. If 40,000 more troops are required in Afghanistan for a limited period of time to carry out that mission successfully and reduce the potential for harm to our brave men and women already there, then they should be dispatched without any more delay. Once we have neutralized the current threat, we can redeploy most of our ground troops offshore, at the ready in case they are needed again to squelch any re-emergence of a Taliban-suppported al Qaeda sanctuary. At the same time, the aggressive drone attacks in neighboring Pakistan should continue along with stepped-up assaults on Taliban sanctuaries by Pakistani military forces.
Obama’s hand-wringing is putting our troops at risk and allowing the al Qaeda-Taliban alliance to flourish.