Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Putting The Elections In Perspective

While Americans tuned into the political gyrations of a handful of elections yesterday and political operatives pontificating what it all means today, it remains dwarfed by what happened in Afghanistan.

Five British soldiers embedded with locals were shot and killed by an Afghan policeman with whom they were mentoring at a security outpost in Helmand Province. The embedded NATO troops were carrying out a key part of the counter-insurgency strategy to train Afghan army and police. The assailant escaped in the confusing firefight that followed. British newspapers voiced the outrage by its people back home in not-so-jolly England.

I join in their outrage which is compounded by a stay-the-course mentality of British and U.S. leaders who insist the murders were an isolated incident.

“Partnering and mentoring is more and more the way we are training the Afghan units,” Col. Wayne Shanks, a NATO public affairs officer, said. “You have to be there: work with them, live with them and it makes you safer in the long run. It’s a fundamental tenet of counterinsurgency strategy.”

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American military commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement saying: “We will not let this event deter our resolve to building a partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to provide for Afghanistan’s future.”

The attack Tuesday was not the first nor last, said Haji Muhammed Anwar Khan, a Helmand tribal leader and member of Parliament.

Last month an Afghan policeman killed two U.S. soldiers in Wardak Province during a joint patrol.

Polls in Britain are split but support is slipping for that country's participation in Afghanistan where 92 of its troops have been killed this year. Britain has a force of 9,000 troops in that country among the 73,000 NATO forces that include 43 nations.

Britain's leadership remains resolved. Reports the New York Times:

But both the Labor party government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the opposition Conservatives led by David Cameron, who are strong favorites to win a general election next spring, have stood firmly by the British commitment.

Both leaders have said that Britain’s role in the NATO coalition in Afghanistan is essential to safeguarding Britain’s security against Islamic extremist attacks of the kind that the United States endured on Sept. 11, 2001, and Britain on July 7, 2005, when 56 people, including four suicide bombers, were killed in attacks on London’s transit system.

After the killing of the five British soldiers, that message was reaffirmed by the British defense minister, Bob Ainsworth. Speaking in a BBC interview during a visit to Saudi Arabia, he rejected the arguments of those in Britain who have said that the country should abandon its military role in Afghanistan and concentrate on guarding against attacks by Islamic militants at home.

British intelligence chiefs have said that three-quarters of all terrorist plots uncovered in Britain in recent years have had links to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is the ancestral homeland of the majority of Britain’s 1.5-million Muslims. “If Afghanistan is not secure, then Pakistan is not secure, and if Pakistan is not secure then Britain is not secure,” Ainsworth said.

The situation in the U.S. does not appear that sensitive because of a lack of large Muslim populations in U.S. cities. However, that in itself does not diminish the threat of clandestine terrorists cells infiltrated by al quada.

President Barack Obama is still holding back his decision to send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan recommended by McChrystal.

I've said it before and say it again. There is no end game in Afghanistan nor is there a will among the American people to spend billions of dollars a month and the loss of lives -- for another decade at least -- for a people who do not want us there and a government that is for the most part inept and corrupt.

It's a steep price for national security when other options are available.

But no, we on the homefront slobber and salivate over the Republicans taking over two governorships and the comeuppance of Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Fred Thompson and Rick Santorum for endorsing an independent conservative over a Republican in an obscure congressional district in upstate New York.

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