This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Afghanistan is bleeding America, albeit slowly.
One of the latest NATO casualties in that far-off nation hit close to home. Army 1st Sgt Jose San Nicolas Crisostomo – a 59-year-old Spanaway man – was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul Tuesday. His death was a grim reminder that the South Sound, with its large military population, has a big stake in the Afghan war.
There’s nothing murky about the cause Crisostomo gave his life for.
Two days after his death, Afghans crowded into polling stations and cast ballots in their nation’s presidential election. Many of those voters were risking their lives. Taliban rebels had threatened to bomb polls and cut off the ink-stained fingers of people who’d defied them.
The election’s success can be credited in large part to troops like Crisostomo, who have – so far – prevented the Taliban from recapturing control of Afghanistan.
Americans have short memories.
On Wednesday, a Washington Post-ABC News poll reported that 51 percent of all respondents said the war is not worth fighting – up from 45 percent a month earlier.
Too much shouldn’t be read into those numbers. As wars go, Afghanistan has produced relatively few casualties – less than 800 deaths in almost eight years. Opposition to the conflict is tepid compared to the anger over the Iraq war.
But the opposition has plenty of room to grow, and some Americans apparently need reminding of the conflict’s purpose.
Unlike Iraq, there is no serious doubt about the original rationale for the war. The 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., were masterminded and launched from Afghanistan. Al-Qaida leaders were not hiding in caves then; they was hosted and abetted by the Taliban government, which shared their goal of a brutal, international theocracy. The entire country was a terrorist safe house, complete with training bases.
Al-Qaida was essentially functioning as an arm of the Taliban when it attacked the United States. If the Taliban came back, Afghanistan would again become a haven for al-Qaida – and an ideal base from which to attempt to capture Pakistan’s government and its nuclear arsenal. Corrupt and flawed as the existing Afghan government may be, it is infinitely preferable to a Taliban restoration.
President Obama has repeatedly emphasized that this is a necessary war. He’s right. It was necessary in 2001 and it will remain necessary until Afghanistan has a government and army capable of preventing the return of the terrorist state.