President Barack Obama made a superb statement in France when he said, according to The New York Times, “On the eve of a NATO summit meeting, ‘America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes.’ Answering questions at a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, he said, as reported by the Times, “The fight against Islamic extremists [is] one that Europe could not afford to leave to the United States alone.”
He went on, “I think it is important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now president and George Bush is no longer president, al-Qaida is still a threat . . . al-Qaida is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity.”
However, President Obama’s calls to action largely fell on deaf ears. The next day, April 5, the Times reported, “The Afghan war too remained a dividing line for alliance leaders. Despite a glowing reception and widespread praise for Mr. Obama’s style and aims, his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside, as they had been in negotiations leading up to the meeting.”
NATO’s overriding credo is “an attack upon one is an attack upon all.” After 9/11, most NATO nations pledged solidarity with our war in Afghanistan. Fewer joined us in Iraq, disagreeing with our attack upon that nation and pointing to the United Nations’ refusal to sanction that war. Regrettably, few of those countries joined us in Afghanistan providing boots on the ground, willing and able to engage the enemy in actual combat. We are required by agreement with Iraq to leave that country no later than December of 2011. The war we fought in Iraq with currently more than 135,000 U.S. troops was conducted with very modest assistance from our NATO allies, and primarily with the help of Great Britain, which provided approximately 7,000 troops and then in a more peaceful part of Iraq — Basra. American casualties in Iraq to date have been 4,264; Britain’s casualties have been 179.
Based on the NATO credo, an attack upon one is an attack upon all, one could reasonably expect Europe to provide a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan. We currently have 38,000 troops in Afghanistan. All of NATO — except the U.S. — in the aggregate has 35,000 troops.
President Obama, seeking to emulate the surge success in Iraq has stated he is committing an additional 21,000 American soldiers to Afghanistan — 17,000 to be combat ready and 4,000 for the training of the Afghan army, the intent being to add several hundred thousand troops to the Afghan army.
The response of our NATO allies to President Obama’s call on his current European trip for assistance was predictable. The Times reports, “As expected, European allies agreed to provide up to 5,000 new troops for Afghanistan, the White House said Saturday. But 3,000 of them are to be deployed only temporarily to provide security for the August elections in Afghanistan. A further 1,400 to 2,000 soldiers will be sent to form embedded training teams for the Afghan army and the police.” The Times laid out the varying NATO promised country contributions: “Germany said it would send an additional 600 troops. Spain offered 600; Britain, 900.” Contrast that with the Times report that “Mr. Obama is raising the number of American troops this year to about 68,000 from the current 38,000 which will significantly Americanize the war.” The Times in the same article quoted an anonymous “senior European diplomat who said, ‘We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out.’”
While I fault our NATO allies for not coming to our assistance to the extent they should under the vaunted credo, I agree with their assessment: We should all get out. The U.S. certainly cannot continue to bear the losses in dead and maimed Americans and the cost of the war in the billions to deal with an existential threat that is greater to the existence of many of our European allies than it is to us, evident by the attacks of terror in Europe. \
To take on the war against terrorism basically alone in Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan, without our NATO allies makes no sense. For American soldiers to die when those allies decline to engage in battle makes no sense.
In addition to our fighting al-Qaida terrorism, we trumpet the fact that we have freed Afghanistan and its people from the religious terror imposed upon them when the Taliban ruled. But that is not true.
We are now fighting for a government which is considered by most experts as one of the most corrupt in the world. Adding to its infamous reputation is the latest action of the Karzai government. The Times on April 5 reported, “Human rights officials have criticized the [new] law in particular for the restrictions it places on when a woman can leave her house [unaccompanied by a male family member] and for stating the circumstances in which she has to have sex with her husband.” The Times reported, “Critics have said that provision legalizes marital rape.” The new law also “forbids women from working or receiving education without their husband’s permission.”
Are American soldiers to offer up their lives in defense of Afghanistan and its current government, which many, as a result of the new law, will find hard to distinguish from the toppled Taliban?
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