Pay Attention To Afghanistan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Obama administration’s reassessment of U.S. policy in Afghanistan has generated scant interest in a Jewish community preoccupied with Iran. That inattention could prove costly. How America deals with a worsening situation in the Afghan war, now in its eighth year, will affect U.S. options in Iran, the direction of the war on terrorism and a much broader range of foreign policy matters.

The outlines of the crisis are all too familiar. The Taliban is resurgent, the populace is turning against the U.S. military presence, American generals want more troops but the administration fears a Vietnam-like quagmire and exit strategies remain blurred. Neighboring Pakistan, on the verge of becoming the world’s most dangerous failed state, is an explosive wild card in the mix.

American Jews have good reason to worry about Iran’s accelerating effort to build its first nuclear weapon, but Pakistan already has a stockpile of bombs, missiles to deliver them and a worrisome record on proliferation. The central government has lost control of vast swaths of the country to radical jihadists, and many analysts question its viability.

What can be done to prevent the complete implosion of that country, a nightmare scenario? What about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

And how long can America sustain an Afghanistan war that is a huge and steady drain on military manpower and morale? To what degree will the continuation of the war sap resources needed to respond to other international crises, starting with Iran?

Israel’s security is clearly related to America’s leadership status in world affairs — a status that is increasingly imperiled by the Afghanistan crisis. At home, public dissatisfaction with the war is mounting. In the most recent Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops into the conflict.
The Obama administration is facing what could be a choice between bad and worse. Whatever it chooses, the political repercussions will likely add to the climate of anger and paralysis gripping Washington. The Jewish community, as a supporter of Israel and a world without nuclear weapons in the hands of madmen, has a huge stake in the debate now taking place in the inner sanctums of the administration.

We are not suggesting a specific course of action; we are suggesting a renewed focus on a conflict that is likely to affect all our communal priorities, foreign and domestic.

 

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