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Bergen: More Troops for Afghanistan

In a post yesterday I mentioned being unsure whether more troops in Afghanistan would make a difference — not out of agnosticism, but out of genuine ignorance/confusion. Many smart people believe we’ve past the point of no return. But other smart people think that’s just flat wrong.

One of them is Peter Bergen, one of the U.S.’s top chroniclers of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. In this post for U.N. Dispatch — sent to me by my friend Mark Leon Goldberg — Bergen contends that sending more troops to Afghanistan is absolutely imperative:

Why are more needed? Well do the math: Afghanistan is a country ideally suited to guerilla warfare with its high mountain ranges and it is a third larger than Iraq and its population is some 6 million or so greater, yet the numbers of soldiers and policemen in Iraq are more than three times larger than in Afghanistan.

Bergen points out that the U.S. war in Afghanistan appears, by most polling measures, to be the exception to the Afghan tradition of powerful xenophobia.

An ABC News/BBC poll released in December 2006 shows that despite the disappointments that Afghans have felt about inadequate reconstruction and declining security on a wide range of key issues, they maintain positive attitudes. It is classic counterinsurgency doctrine that the center of gravity in a conflict is the people. And the Afghan people, unlike the Iraqis, have positive feelings about the U.S.-led occupation, their own government and their lives. The conclusions of the ABC/BBC poll are worth quoting in some detail:

“Big majorities continue to call the U.S.-led invasion a good thing for their country (88 percent), to express a favorable opinion of the United States (74 percent) and to prefer the current Afghan government to Taliban rule (88 percent). Indeed eight in 10 Afghans support the presence of U.S., British and other international forces on their soil; that compares with five percent support for Taliban fighters…Fifty-five percent of Afghans still say the country’s going in the right direction, but that’s down sharply from 77 percent last year. Whatever the problems, 74 percent say their living conditions today are better now than they were under the Taliban. That rating, however, is 11 points lower now than it was a year ago.”

I’m going to look around and see if the Internet can turn up a concise case against additional troops in Afghanistan.

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