Suddenly, Afghanistan has become — potentially — one of the world’s wealthiest countries, sort of a Mother Lode of Mother Lodes.
The announcement by U.S. civilian and military geological experts has become another reason for the Taliban to increase its efforts to take back the country and for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to scorn our lingering presence there and conspire against us with the Taliban.
Congressional committees probing the future of the war need to consider some basic truths:
• We invaded Afghanistan with two basic missions: To capture Osama bin Laden and punish al Qaeda for its attacks on America. Ousting the Taliban from control of Afghanistan was tossed in as an extra goal. We have failed on the first two missions, and the Taliban is resurgent.
• No matter how long we might remain in Afghanistan, the Taliban would simply wait us out, then resume its control of the government. That, throughout history, has been the Afghan way of handling foreign intruders.
• The troops we have are in no mood for new tour-upon-tour assignments of duty. They are worn out and worn down. Their fatalities are growing. The suicide rate among them is climbing steadily, as are the numbers of stress disorders.
• With every week, the Taliban is winning converts, extending its reach further and further into next-door Pakistan, whose atomic arsenal is so vulnerable to seizure.
• What do we do if and when the fighting is over ? Pour billions into Afghanistan to support its recovery? That is our tradition. We just cannot stop giving once we have defeated the bad guys anywhere.
Unless the president can possibly justify our continuing presence in Afghanistan, or unless he can make clear to the public the Taliban’s increasing threat to Pakistan and its nuclear resources, we ought to say our goodbyes and leave Afghanistan with whatever trace of dignity we might be able to scrape up.
Chevy Chase, Md.