In matters of war and international politics, a sense of perspective is a useful thing. That’s especially so in a place like Afghanistan.
Like many of his peers from Fort Bragg, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt has that perspective. He’s in Afghanistan as deputy commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, which is overseeing the end of America’s longest war. It’s his second deployment there. His first, a decade ago, was like a trip to a different country.
When Colt commanded the 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from the summer of 2002 until the summer of 2004, he recalls the capital city of Kabul as dark and lifeless at night. Ten years later, it’s filled with light and activity. The city is growing and thriving.
So are the country’s National Security Forces, which didn’t exist in 2004. Now 350,000 strong, the Afghan forces “don’t need our prompting anymore,” Colt told Observer reporter Drew Brooks last week. “They’re moving in the right direction.”
That’s good, because as the U.S. and its NATO allies prepare to largely withdraw, the world needs to know that the nation won’t revert to the dark place it was. We need some assurance that Afghanistan won’t slip back into the grip of fundamentalists like the Taliban, who turned the nation into a leading exporter of well-trained terrorists.
Even as military leaders prepare for the end of the international military coalition’s mission in Afghanistan, other Fort Bragg units are scattered about the country, showing the Taliban and other insurgents that they’re still ready for battle. The forays into the countryside are useful and reassuring to Afghan soldiers.
But will there be that kind of backup available six or seven months from now? The summer fighting season is underway in Afghanistan, and those shows of force may get deadly. But what about in next year’s fighting season?
The final decision about long-term American presence in Afghanistan will be made by President Obama, and so far, he’s holding his cards close. It’s unclear whether there will be a few thousand American troops left in the country next year, or 10,000, or none. Whatever the number, it’s got to be enough to prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into the hands of fundamentalists who embrace terrorism. Anything less is unacceptable.
— Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer