We Can't Win Afghanistan on the Cheap

We've known it all along, but now it's official: the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan is being shortchanged. General David Richards, who leads NATO's contingent of 31,000 in Afghanistan -- including some 13,000 U.S. troops under his command -- today plainly stated that he needs substantially more fighting men and women in Afghanistan to win.

The White House foolishly has tried to bring stability and security to Afghanistan on the cheap. From the beginning, the Administration devoted inadequate military forces and funding to the vitally important task of securing the peace in Afghanistan. Instead of working with our NATO allies to ensure that sufficient numbers were dispatched to the conflict, the Administration attempted to outsource Afghanistan’s security to warlords and drug kingpins. That was a profound mistake, and it has come back to haunt us.

Because the situation remains precarious, the people of Afghanistan are on the fence, believing that the Taliban eventually will return to power. The United States and our NATO allies must regain lost ground in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Instead of wasting time inventing new rhetoric to convince the world that we are winning the war on terrorism, the Administration should dispatch our country’s best diplomats to other NATO nations to demand that they provide more troops without delay.

The United States must provide significant logistical support to our NATO allies to bolster the international effort. We have to improve our faltering reconstruction efforts. And we must finally tackle the warlords and narcotics traffickers who are strangling Afghanistan and supporting the Taliban.

Tom Lantos is the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.