Inside Opinion

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Tag: surge


Did the surge succeed? We’ll find out – years from now

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The surge in Afghanistan began with a bang. It just ended in a whimper.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mentioned its conclusion while on the other side of the planet, in New Zealand. As of a week ago, the United States had finished drawing down the 33,000 additional troops Barack Obama deployed to Afghanistan after he took office in 2009 – his chief contribution to the war.

The quiet from the White House suggests ambivalence about the results, or at least a desire not to inject Afghanistan into the presidential race. Otherwise Obama would be declaring victory and trumpeting success.

The combat units of Joint Base Lewis-McChord – our neighbors – have sacrificed lives, limbs and blood for the cause of a non-terrorist Afghanistan, so we have all the more reason to hope for decisive results from any U.S. strategy.

But like the 11-year-old war itself, the surge can be construed as either a success or a failure. The Taliban suffered major reverses as U.S. combat units pushed into territories the guerrillas had terrorized or dominated. The streets of Kandahar and other cities in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan are much safer as a result.
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Obama picked right gamble in Afghanistan

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Big decisions are risky decisions. President Obama took the right risks at West Point on Tuesday when he outlined his plans for a troop surge in Afghanistan.

The obvious gamble is that any military venture in Afghanistan can turn out well. There’s a long history of foreign interventions coming to grief in that remote, mountainous, tribal country.

But the earlier interventions – such as the ill-fated Soviet occupation of the 1980s – were attempts to turn the country into a colony or dominion. The United States and its NATO allies aren’t trying to own Afghanistan, which means the intervention can be much more limited in its goals and duration – which in turn enhances the chances of success.

The gambles Obama chose not to take were to either abandon the country or try to get by – as the Bush administration did – with an inadequate force on the ground. The end result in both cases would be a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Taliban, whose leaders are implacably hostile to the United States, liberal democracy, Western civilization – anything but the inhuman, primitive theocracy they are trying to resurrect from the Dark Ages.
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