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Monday, 18 September 2006 05:35

Afghanistan is the New Iraq: Al-Qaeda and Taliban back in Action

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Remember Afghanistan? You know, the country we invaded when we actually did have international support and, more importantly, reasonable justification. It turns out the mission is far from accomplished there after all, and it's not just because Bush let Osama bin Laden get away. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda are alive and well in Afghanistan, and they are growing stronger.

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to leave only a few thousand troops there while we've continuously had about 140,000 in Iraq, even though Iraq is actually about 70,000 square miles smaller, has fewer people, and, of course, presented no urgent threat.

Britain's top counter-terrorism official, Peter Clarke, said today that Al-Qaeda is still directing terrorist operations around the world, and terrorist camps are still flourishing in and out of Afghanistan. Clarke believes authorities overestimated the damage done to terrorist infrastructures after the 2001 Afghanistan invasion.

Just how bad are things going in Afghanistan? Coalition nations can't even agree on how long they think it will take before they can leave. Canada says two to five more years, Britain says three to five more years, and the U.S. says we will need at least five more years.

Yesterday's excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights some of the many problems going on these days. Fighting is at its highest level since the invasion. Warlords control nearly the entire country. Opium production is at a record high. Militias are adopting Iraqi-insurgent-style suicide attacks and killing high government officials. 97% of Afghans lack constant electricity, and 60% have no electricity at all.

What can you expect when Congress appropriates $34 billion for Iraqi reconstruction but just $9 billion for Afghanistan, of which only $2.5 billion has been spent? Horrendous planning and gross mismanagement hasn't helped either. Britain's former top soldier in Afghanistan described Coalition efforts as "a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency" before he resigned from the army last month in disgust.

Great, now the president who never read a textbook is writing one.

With a foreign policy dumbed down to "stay to course" and "kill 'em all," you might think Bush would have at least finished the job in Afghanistan. But that would involve him not screwing something up, a feat he has proven to be utterly incapable of.