By Richard Halloran
The Washington Times
As the United States begins extricating itself from the quagmire in Iraq, it is in jeopardy of plunging into a swamp in Afghanistan that is filled with uncertainty.
Yet neither President George Bush nor the leading candidates to succeed him, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, who debated the Afghan issue this week, have so far articulated America’s national interest in that landlocked Central Asian country. The White House, however, began a belated review this week of objectives and strategy in Afghanistan.
Gen. David McKiernan, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, sketched out a gloomy picture for the Pentagon press on Oct. 1, saying it would take “four to five years” of intervention before the Afghans could take responsibility for their internal security.
“What I have found after four months in Afghanistan is that the environment there is even more complex than I would have thought,” Gen. McKiernan said. “It’s a country where they have experienced 30 straight years of war that’s left a traumatized society and a traumatized tribal system.”
Other soldiers experienced in Afghanistan have been even more pessimistic. Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith, Britain’s senior commander in Afghanistan, was quoted: “We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.”
Brig. Carleton-Smith, who has just finished a second tour in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Times: “We want to change the nature of the debate from one where disputes are settled through the barrel of the gun to one where it is done through negotiations.” Evidently, negotiations would include moderate members of the revived Taliban insurgents.
A U.S. Army colonel who led a task force in Afghanistan, Christopher Kolenda, writing in the Weekly Standard asked: “How is it that we find ourselves unable to dispatch the Taliban seven years after their downfall? Winning in Afghanistan requires….