So Bill Frist wants the Taliban to be a part of the government in Afghanistan? If we can’t beat them, join them?
Reading the coverage of Bill Frist’s trip to Afghanistan, there’s a lot to say.
I could say it’s Dr. Frist’s worst diagnosis since the public spectacle of his Terri Schiavo diagnosis on the Senate floor.
I could say that Bill Frist who once pathetically labeled Democrats who are right about Iraq the “Defeatocrat Party,” is now the Senate’s leading spokesperson for those who are dead wrong on Afghanistan – the “Retreaticans.”
But all of that would do a disservice to just how profoundly wrong Sen. Frist is about Afghanistan, and how little leadership he’s providing when he just throws his hands up in the air and suggests the only hope is to bring the Taliban into the government as if it’s the inevitable outcome of what American troops began so bravely after September 11th.
Reaching an accommodation with terrorists isn’t the answer. We know what happened when the Taliban was in power Afghanistan: one of the most repressive regimes of modern times ruthlessly brutalized its citizens and allowed the world’s worst terrorists to attack us from its territory. We know they are still receiving support and guidance from al Qaeda as they try desperately to return to the bad old days. And we know they are not part of the democratically elected government we have sacrificed so much for.
If coddling the Taliban ever becomes the only way to save the government of Afghanistan, that will only be because this Administration has treated Afghanistan like a sideshow. The truth is, we are slipping dangerously backwards in Afghanistan because this Administration continues to deny reality.
Just look at the facts. The resurgent Taliban insurgency poses a greater threat to the Karzai government, the Afghan people, and our troops on the ground than at any point since they were overthrown. The opium trade increased by 60% last year and is now at an all-time high, funding warlords and insurgents and threatening to turn Afghanistan into a narco-state. Roadside bomb attacks have more than doubled this year, and suicide attacks have more than tripled. And forty percent of the population is unemployed and ninety percent lack regular electricity.
Just last week, Secretary Rumsfeld joined the Secretary General of NATO and the head of UN in Afghanistan in acknowledging that more troops are needed to combat the Taliban resurgence. Secretary Rice said we’ll “pay for it” if Afghanistan again devolves into a terrorist stronghold. But again and again the Administration has refused to heed its own warnings and refused to send the troops that are so clearly needed to avoid repeating the terrible mistakes of the past. That is both a tragedy and a scandal.
We have reached a critical point in Afghanistan. This Administration is on the verge of making the same mistake they made in not recognizing the threat of the insurgency in Iraq until it was too late. We know the risks of letting Afghanistan become a terrorist haven. Yet the Administration’s policy has defined cut and run. Cut and run when we had Osama bin Laden and his henchmen trapped in Tora Bora. Cut and run when we diverted resources form the hunt to invade Iraq, which had no relationship with Al Qaeda and nothing to do with 9/11.
Cut and run even now, as we learn from Pakistani intelligence that the mastermind of the most recent attempt to blow up American airliners was an al Qaeda affiliate operating from Afghanistan. That’s right – the same killers who attacked us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks against America and they’re still holed up in Afghanistan.
The central front in the war on terror is still in Afghanistan, but this Administration treats it like a sideshow. When did denying al Qaeda a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan stop being an urgent American priority? How did we end up with seven times more troops in the crossfire of a civil war in Iraq – which our intelligence agencies tell us fans the flames of jihad and creates even more terrorists – than we have in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and al Qaeda still roams free?
So the next time the Senate Majority Leader travels to Afghanistan, maybe rather than declare surrender and invite the Taliban into Afghanistan’s government he can instead challenge Administration policy – and insist that the only exit strategy in Afghanistan is victory.
Insist that when NATO allies have pledged troops and assistance, they must follow through. Insist that the United States lead by example by sending in at least five thousand additional American troops. More elite Special Forces troops, the best counter-insurgency units in the world; more civil affairs forces to bolster reconstruction efforts; and more infantry to secure the border with Pakistan. More predator drones to find the enemy, more helicopters to allow rapid deployments to confront them, and more heavy combat equipment to make sure we can crush the terrorists.
And insist that we get serious about rebuilding Afghanistan. The President talks a good game, but his words ring hollow when his Administration has actually cut aid to Afghanistan aid by 30% this year, and requested 67% less than that for next year. We need more reconstruction money – not less — to combat the flourishing drug trade and ensure that the elected government in Kabul, helped by the United States, not the Taliban helped by al Qaeda, rebuilds the new Afghanistan. That’s how you win the hearts and minds of the local population, that’s how you win a war on terror, that’s how you show the world the true face of America.
Stop telling the Taliban what they want to hear – and get the job done.