Quagmires remain

On the ninth anniversary of 9/11 we continue, as a nation and as individual citizens, to reflect on what progress has been made since the attack changed our country forever. Are we safer? Will we ever be?

The end of combat operations in Iraq isn't quite heartening — there is no government in place and the security gains made possible by the 2007 surge remain at risk. An invigorated al Qaeda in Iraq is already working hard on its recruiting, paying Iraqis well and reminding them that the Americans are leaving next year for good.

In Afghanistan, things have deteriorated so much that President Obama — who less than a year ago committed to tripling our level of troops there — now speaks often of a likely drawdown there next July, at which point the Afghans will have to fend for themselves. In the ninth year of that war ,American casualties are high, and as we attempt to train an Afghan police force the Afghans lose four to six police recruits per day to Taliban attacks.

The corrupt government of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai shows no signs of improvement, despite a red-carpet rollout in Washington, D.C. Recent reports continue to illustrate just how much our government continues to coddle Karzai as he lashes out against the United States with great regularity. He has recently announced he will attempt to limit the length of time our contractors can stay, he has repeatedly taken actions to sabotage graft and corruption investigations and has up until now turned a blind eye at the flow of roughly $1 billion in cash a year out of Kabul airport, which is thought to be foreign aid diverted to secret accounts in other countries like Dubai. Kabul bank, created with U.S. resources and run partly by Kabul insiders like Karzai's brother, has become another corrupt institution and is in danger of collapsing. Depositors are blaming the United States.

A new, incredibly disturbing report indicates Karzai is also looking the other way at new Iranian influences in Afghanistan that endanger U.S. forces there. According to the Sunday Times, five Iranian companies have managed to win reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan, where they use the foreign aid funding the contracts to pay the Taliban to kill U.S. troops and to destroy their military vehicles.

And a stunning account of just how little effect we are having on corruption in Afghanistan, published in The Washington Post, reveals that the Obama administration has persuaded Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not to release a report on corruption in Afghanistan for fear it would not only embarrass the U.S. government but rile Karzai.

As we reflect on the lives lost on 9/11, we should ask ourselves: How many Americans have fought and given their lives since 9/11 against terrorists, and how many billions have we spent in nine years? It's more than discouraging to hear what our efforts are amounting to in Afghanistan right now.


WILL THE GOP WIN THE TAX-CUT DEBATE? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, Sept. 14. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

More in Finance

Jobless claims rise but job market remains healthy

Read more »