Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center, President Bush began strikes on Taliban targets in Afghanistan and began a military operation to root out the radical group. But before nearly finishing the task at hand, neo-conservatives (some of whom had established the Project for the New American Century and had previously tried to push President Clinton into war with Iraq) renewed their effort to make a case based on faulty intelligence for Iraq. The effort led to a poorly thought out unilateral invasion that cost the U.S. billions of dollars, thousands of Iraqi and American deaths and tens of allies. President Obama ran with the promise that he would bring the Iraq war to an end and refocus our attention to fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who were our real adversaries. The promise made sense, had international appeal and gained the strong support of Democrats, independents and some Republicans, who voted to send him to The White House with a 7% advantage over his war veteran Republican opponent, Senator McCain. But as it sometimes happens, we have begun to see some flip-flopping taking place following the election. The difference is that this time, it is not the politician, now President Obama, who is doing the flipping, but some of the very people who so faithfully supported him and his position on Afghanistan. As President Obama is getting ready to live up to his promise, renew American efforts in Afghanistan and make a number of critical decisions regarding an increase of troops, an ever-growing chorus of liberals is pressuring him to abandon Afghanistan and withdraw without any regards to what will happen next. These individuals make a number of unpersuasive arguments, from generic anti-war platitudes to faulty comparisons with other unsuccessful wars. One of those overused comparisons has been with Afghanistan's war with the Soviets in the 1980s and the fact that the Soviets were unable to root out the Taliban after 9 years of fighting. But the Soviets' war with the Taliban was fundamentally different than ours. First, Soviets' main objective was quite narrow: to support the Marxist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Taliban. They did not focus on defending the population, helping to educate and build schools or support development and trade. The American policy under President Obama is fundamentally different and more comprehensive. While President Bush saw Afghanistan as mostly a military project, President Obama has a comprehensive policy that goes far beyond just the military operations. Secondly, the Taliban were in a stronger military position during their war with the Soviets because they garnered full American support. As soon as they began their war, President Carter authorized the CIA to begin a massive propaganda effort against the Marxists, making the Afghan government unpopular and Taliban popular. And shortly after President Reagan was sworn into office, the United States began training and arming the Taliban. Of course the Taliban were able to fight the Soviets more ably with the strong help of a super power like the United States. But the Taliban now have no state sponsors, putting them in a much weaker position. And the third major difference between the Soviet's war with Afghanistan and current American efforts -- which also makes comparisons with Vietnam irrelevant -- is that while Afghans may have felt ambivalent or supportive of the Taliban in the 1980s, they are now deeply unpopular in all parts of the country. Afghans have now had the chance to live under a Taliban regime and remember the brutalities and carry the scars. Because of this experience, Afghans by and large were ecstatic to see the Taliban go and deeply fear their comeback now. This reality also makes American initiatives in Afghanistan much more popular than those of the Soviets. The same issue of popularity makes comparisons with Vietnam irrelevant (where Viet Cong was very popular and had the state sponsorship of the Soviet Union against the United States, leading to t
- Leaving Afghanistan may be a comfortable position to take in the short-run, but will lead to the immediate rise of the Taliban and a guaranteed safe heaven for Al Qaeda. It is not so much the camps in dirt that provide Al Qaeda with the ability to attack the U.S., but the fact that whereas they are now spending most of their resources to fight NATO troops, a safe haven will free up those resources that they can then use to train and equip individuals in the United States.