An Afghan-crisis that's hard to unravel?
A recent poll indicates trouble ahead for the Obama administration. The U.S. public, already exasperated by a costly "war of choice" for illusory WMDs that many now believe shouldn't have been fought in Iraq, is growing increasingly weary with the apparently endless commitment to combat in Afghanistan. This was the good fight in the late war on terror (a phrase now verbotten in Washington) that previously had enjoyed bipartisan support among Americans who clearly perceived Afghanistan as a smoldering threat to U.S. security.
Now most Americans say they want out of the Afghani conflict, and a string of awful news of U.S. deaths, assasinations, and government misbehavior out of Afghanistan in the last week could not have improved their sentiment much. According to a new McClatchy Newspapers/Ipsos survey, 54 percent of Americans think the U.S. isn't winning the war (29 percent say it is, and 17 percent weren't sure or had no opinion).
More worrisome for Obama and Democrats who are beginning to wonder if the vibrant president isn't beginning to look a little Johnsony circa 1967 is the 56 percent of Americans who now oppose sending any more combat troops to Afghanistan. Meanwhile a new U.S. Army report calls for even more troops to turn around a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan as it details how the U.S. has blown opportunities in the region.
With little progress apparent politically or strategically, battle deaths on the increase, and apparent hijinks in the recent election, a lot of Americans are wondering not only if the war in Afghanistan is winnable, but if it is worth winning. It doesn't help that our political allies in the nation NATO and the United States are attempting to build have evidenced not only a problem with run-of-the-mill corruption, but a personal entanglement with the international opium trade, enriching, according to some reports President Karzai's own brother, alongside the Taliban insurgency.
Historically Afghanistan is the place where proud empires go to fail—badly. The hunt for Bin Laden now appears more like a struggle to prevent the Taliban from taking over no longer just Afghanistan but the neighboring and increasingly shaky Pakistan.
It's always possible that public battle fatigue could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this late in the game, of course, but after 8 years with young boots on the ground and casualties on the rise, it is also not unreasonable for U.S. public sentiment to begin to shift away from a war without end. No one wants another Vietnam, but we may already be deep in an Afghani big muddy. The problem: success seems to be the only option anyone has prepared for.
It couldn't hurt to have a plan B for Afghanistan in place that will allow NATO and the U.S. to extract themselves and more important their troops from this sandy quagmire with as much dignity and as little mayhem as possible.