EDITORIAL: An incomplete war

President Obama’s war strategy speech Tuesday night sought to explain why the United States must send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan for a surge designed to finally quash Al Qaeda terrorists in its remotest regions. The goal is to so weaken a Taliban resurgence that regular, fully trained Afghan soldiers can take over the war, stabilizing their country.
Obama made a strong case for the military goals, recalling that Al Qaeda planned and executed its Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States from the caves and hideouts of Afghanistan. The Taliban, with whom the U.S. had an arrangement of convenience when it wanted the Soviet Union driven out of Afghanistan, became oppressive tyrants as brutal as Al Qaeda, providing a safehaven for the terrorists.
We went to war in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, give democracy a foothold, and bomb Al Qaeda out of the caves and into oblivion. The Taliban was driven from power but not defeated. Al Qaeda was suppressed, but survived. Both have now made a comeback, and the whole region is arguably less stable, including Pakistan, a U.S. ally in a complex relationship.
More than 800 Americans have died in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands have served, including, in regular combat rotations, thousands of Mississippians over the war’s eight years.
The total allied force (U.S., NATO and others) in Afghanistan will be 140,000 with the latest deployment, including a requested 5,000 more NATO troops.
The momentum for executing a new strategy – a surge – is a bipartisan but certainly not unanimous conclusion, enunciated by Obama, that Afghanistan “… is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and Al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on Al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.”
It is undeniably correct that many Americans want our nation and its soldiers out of Afghanistan now. The war has been long, costly and at times dispiriting, but it is hard to see how withdrawing from Afghanistan with goals incomplete would be in our nation’s and our allies’ interests.
This is the same war backed in 2001 by the NATO council, the U.N. Security Council, and a virtually unanimous U.S. Congress.
Assess the options again after the new strategy is fully implemented and results known.

NEMS Daily Journal