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March 19, 2009
Afghanistan may be a quagmire worse than Iraq, Vietnam

U.S. troops in Zabol province, Afghanistan.

As the threat from Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents increases in Afghanistan, the United States wants to double the size of the Afghan security forces — the army and the police. See more about the plan, which is awaiting President Obama’s approval: U.S. plans to upsurge soldiers and police in Afghanistan.

Worldfocus editorial consultant Peter Eisner, the former deputy foreign editor of the Washington Post, discusses reviewing policies in Iraq before committing to a new war strategy in Afghanistan.

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama hammered away at the failure of George W. Bush for having engaged the wrong enemy when he launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is too early to say how he will deal with what he considered the real fight in Afghanistan.

Sometimes overlooked is the policy review initiated by General David Petraeus even before President Obama took office. Petraeus called together dozens of intelligence experts and others to come up with a plan. These analysts, along with Petraeus and the president himself, are well aware of the old saying about Afghanistan — it is “the burial ground of empires.”

So while the president plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, we still haven’t heard the results of the policy review. It would be hard to think that President Obama would commit hundreds of thousands of combat troops to the fight, risking a quagmire worse than Iraq, even Vietnam.

But we may be hearing early signs of a policy, especially in the words of Vice President Joe Biden. He implied last week that the administration is looking for ways to win over the hearts and minds (and the pocketbooks) of people drawn to the Taliban cause.

At a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels last week, Biden said the United States has learned in Iraq to promote progress by working with local governments, and not through battlefield victories.

Biden said “There’s only one way, and that is to engage — engage in the process, looking for pragmatic solutions to accomplishing what our goal is; that is an Afghanistan that is, at minimum goal, is not a haven for terror and is able to sustain itself on its own and provide its own security.”

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Army.mil under a Creative Commons license.

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Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.


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