The Good War?

By TX Hammes, Small Wars Journal blog

In the last month, both presidential candidates have stated they wish to send more troops to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, neither candidate has stated what he sees as the United States’ strategic interests in Afghanistan. Even more dangerous, neither candidate has expressed a strategic framework for the region. Despite increased violence in Pakistan, Musharraf’s recent resignation and the collapse of the coalition government, neither candidate has even commented on how our actions may be feeding Pakistan’s instability. Their determination to send more troops seems to be based on the idea that Afghanistan is the “good war” than on any thoughtful evaluation of the situation.

This sudden willingness to increase our support for Afghanistan is particularly peculiar since it has largely been our forgotten war. Despite almost seven years of fighting, the administration has still not clearly articulated a strategy and has starved the effort of resources.

In October of 2001, with 9/11 burned into the nation’s consciousness, the Bush Administration committed the United States to rooting Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. The nation clearly supported that goal and focused intensely on Afghanistan during the fall and early winter of 2001. However, our attention quickly waned as the active fighting seemed to end. Without ever expressing a change in our strategic goals, the effort in Afghanistan slipped from destroying Al Qaeda to establishing a unified Afghan state. The administration asked the United Nations to help establish a government. Yet, even as that government was being established, the Bush Administration shifted its focus to Iraq. Afghanistan became an under funded, forgotten backwater. Given our much larger investment in Iraq, it is natural the nation’s attention remained focused on Iraq from 2003 until today. Despite a near collapse of our position in Afghanistan during late 2003, and its subsequent rebuilding by the team of Ambassador Khalizaid and Lieutenant General Barno, Americans paid little or no attention to events in Afghanistan. In fact, after their departure, most Americans didn’t notice a slow but steady degradation of the security situation in Afghanistan...