One of the worst admitted failures of
U.S. foreign policy in the last decade of the 20th century was abandoning
Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. Warlords created widespread
havoc, which set the stage for the population to welcome -- at least at
first -- the Taliban takeover as a means of restoring order.
Now in the first decade of the 21st
century, there's an abandonment of sorts of Afghanistan again being
perpetrated by the U.S. It involves the failure of the United States
to adequately play its necessary role in providing medical care, food and
security in that nation in this immediate period following the Taliban's
At least several hundred, more likely thousands
of civilians were killed in U.S.
airstrikes, so there are doubtless many severely injured people in need of
medical assistance. Despite our moral obligation to assist them,
we are apparently doing very
little in this regard, as deplorable
conditions in hospitals attest. Why haven't we set up field
hospitals and flown patients
to our hospital ships or other locations for treatment?
The U.S. bombing campaign undoubtedly made the level of
starvation in Afghanistan worse, as food aid truck convoys were halted,
and the number of refugees in need of assistance increased. Yet we're not using our helicopters to ferry food to starving
people, nor are we providing any security on
the roads to ensure that food already in the country can be delivered to
those who desperately need it.
Finally, the U.S. -- after previously preventing the European nations
from setting up a peacekeeping force -- has finally acquiesced to the
creation of an international peacekeeping force, but refuses to be involved
in it. The lack of security in Afghanistan is not only preventing the
delivery of humanitarian aid, but severely hampers the central Afghan
government -- which is barely in control of Kabul -- from establishing
control over other parts of the country. Such control is a
prerequisite to preventing Al Qaeda from setting up shop there again.
People who otherwise agree on very
little are recognizing the need for greater U.S. involvement.
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow
at the conservative American Enterprise institute, recently called for
U.S. forces -- not unreliable and possibly corrupt soldiers loyal to Afghan
warlords -- to be searching for bin Laden inside Afghanistan.
Thomas Friedman, New York Times
columnist, recently echoed those sentiments, and added
a few other useful observations. He notes that we won the war by
"remote control," but can not win the peace that way. For
example, our failure to put troops on the ground allowed Osama bin Laden and
senior aides to escape Tora Bora.
Going beyond that, Friedman also says
that our allies will not be willing to send adequate numbers of peacekeeping
forces for a sufficient length of time, unless the U.S. is involved.
Without such a force, the Afghan government will not be able to exert
control over the country so as to prevent future re-establishment of
terrorist bases. The warlords are also terrorizing the Afghan
people. As the interim president of Afghanistan succinctly put it,
"People from every province [have] asked me to help get a multinational
force here. People are desperate for security."
Friedman finally points out that
Afghanistan needs an immediate infusion of monetary aid to ease terrible
The U.S. has pledged money to rebuild
Afghanistan. It has provided much of the food that sits in the country
waiting to be distributed. Members of Congress are dutifully visiting
there. So our abandonment of that country now is not total, like it
was after 1989 when the Soviet Union left.
But the consequences of what could be
called our "one foot in, one foot out" posture could be just as
severe if we don't bite the bullet and get involved there like we mean it.