CBS aired a lengthy and intriguing report from the front lines in Afghanistan, the kind of report we don’t usually get unless it comes from our friend Michael Yon. Lara Logan and her crew embedded with an American unit in eastern Afghanistan, deep within the heart of the battle, showing the battle in very personal terms, including a rare close-in firefight. Why are they rare? Because the Taliban and al-Qaeda invariably lose them, so they usually try to keep their distance from American troops. In this case, though, they not only lost, but they gave up valuable intel in the form of a video camera:
CBS and Logan did a very credible job in presenting the American side sympathetically, especially in their professionalism and our intent to rebuild Afghanistan despite the mostly foreign fighters now pouring across the border. I did find it interesting that CBS chose to show the dead bodies of the enemy, especially after the controversy over the AP and their publication of the picture of a mortally-wounded Marine last week. Also, CBS chose to call the enemy “al-Qaeda” and not “Taliban”, a choice I found very interesting.
Speaking of Michael Yon, he has a new dispatch that meshes well with the CBS report:
The West is losing this war. This has been obvious for more than three years. Less obvious is that in 2009, we are down to the wire. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and others will soon recommend to President Obama the latest treatment for a dying patient.
Meanwhile, allies and Americans are asking themselves why we are here. Some are saying that Al Qaeda is still here or is waiting in the wings to return to its home. Yet Afghanistan was never Al Qaeda’s permanent home to begin with. Al Qaeda was just renting a little space here, just as it was renting space in places like Germany and Florida.
We must face reality: Our reasons for continuing are not the reasons we came for. We are fighting a different war now than the one that began in 2001. Today’s war is about social re-engineering. Given the horrible history of Afghanistan, and the fact that we already are here, the cause is worthy and worthwhile.
The decisions facing us are perilous and immense. On the one hand, we desperately need more troops, while on the other increasing troop levels introduces a host of costs and potential traps.
Yet it seems certain the war will be lost if we do not significantly increase troops. While our enemies grow stronger, years will pass before Afghan forces can replace us. Enemies are gaining ground while we lose the goodwill of the people through disillusionment. In the mostly peaceful Ghor Province, for instance, development is scant and there are no Afghan soldiers.
Be sure to read it all, and also to contribute to Michael’s tip jar, as that is the only support he gets for his independent war correspondence. Michael tells it like it is, and that sometimes gains him nothing but criticism. I’ve learned that Michael is almost always ahead of the curve and has a keen eye for analysis.
If we’re losing now, that doesn’t mean we’ve lost — but it does mean changes have to be made. At least thus far, the Obama administration appears open to trying new strategies, including increasing the footprint of US troops in Afghanistan. We have plenty to criticize in Barack Obama’s administration, but we need to support Obama on this issue as he tangles with the Left over Afghanistan.
It will take decades before we can see the gains from the rebuilding efforts shown in this video, which are absolutely critical to Afghanistan’s emergence from poverty and isolation. Retreat now would leave Afghanistan as a breeding ground for terrorism and radicalism, and would condemn the ordinary people to tyranny. We can fool ourselves into thinking that such a collapse doesn’t involve the US, but we’ve done that before — and this week we’ll commemorate the consequences.