No military strategy will work in Afghanistan
February 17, 2010
The Sun editorial, "Winning hearts and minds" (Feb. 16), is right on when it says that "civilian deaths underscore the risks of the
Eventually, though, the editorial goes astray in thinking the right military strategy will bring about peace in
War is far from the answer. The only plausible solution is peace through negotiations and diplomacy. And most importantly the women, who are scorned by both the Taliban and the warlords in the Karzai government, must be at the table. I cannot conjure how awful it must be for a woman in
Max Obuszewski, Baltimore
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Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun
Winning hearts and minds
Our view: Civilian deaths underscore the risks of the
U.S. strategy in Afghanistan
February 16, 2010
There was never much doubt that
With the deaths of up to a dozen civilians from a stray rocket fired by American forces during the fighting that began there over the weekend, and several more killed in an air raid Monday when they were mistakenly thought to be planting a bomb, answers are beginning to emerge that suggest the difficulty of the task the U.S. is facing in this first test of President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy.
So far the Taliban have put up only sporadic, albeit intense, resistance to the U.S.-led offensive, preferring to melt back into the populace rather than stand and fight when confronted with overwhelming force.
But winning small-scale skirmishes and forcing the enemy to retreat won't bring the larger victory President Obama seeks unless Afghan President Hamid Karzai uses the opportunity to clean up his corrupt government and provide the long-term security needed to win the loyalty of his people. All the battlefield successes in the world won't mean much if our efforts to dislodge the Taliban wind up alienating the civilian population.
General Stanley McChrystal's plan for this offensive recognizes those facts and is predicated on the notion that fighting a different kind of battle, including much greater involvement from Afghan security forces, can help dry up support for the insurgency and lead to a stable peace. He's called for limiting the use of airstrikes in favor of ground operations that are less likely to cause civilian casualties. Tribal leaders in the region were consulted before the operation began, and reports from the battlefield indicate that the allied forces have changed their tactics in an attempt to achieve their primary mission of protecting the civilian population.
But as the wayward rocket attack and air raid show, that's easier said than done. Fortunately, there have been few reported casualties among the allied troops, but the more restrictions are placed on how they may conduct the offensive -- General McChrystal, for example, issued a suspension of the use of the rocket system that led to the civilian deaths -- the more risks our troops may face and the more difficult they may find the military operation. At bottom, the war in
Winning them over cannot be achieved with guns alone. Instead, they will have to be shown that the corruption and ineffectiveness that have hindered the Afghan central government's ability to establish order have been eliminated and that their country's leaders are both willing and able to provide the opportunity for a better life. The Obama administration's goal to put "more of an Afghan face" on the war against the Taliban, as national security adviser James L. Jones said Sunday on CNN, won't make much difference if that Afghan face isn't one that the people trust.
If fighting means every time a civilian is killed in a war zone we hold hearings and face complaints from the world, we may as well give up.
Why do we never hear the same voices when Islamists walk into a mosque with explosives belts and kill other Muslim civilians? The Taliban and al-Qaeda are TARGETING civilians, and the sappy voices are never heard. But if
The rules of engagement we face are going to kill more military personnel than the enemy will.
Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs