In Afghanistan, Kingston Sees Hope For Victory
When the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly this week to block an attempt at withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) had fresh perspective -- he had just returned from a weekend meeting with troops and civilian leaders on the front lines.
The withdrawal resolution, which failed by a vote of 356-65, only previewed a much more important debate looming in the wings: how to fund the surge of forces on its way to the country from which the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil was launched. As a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, Congressman Kingston will be charged with formulating that policy.
Returning from Kabul, Congressman Kingston gained renewed confidence Coalition troops and the strategy being employed by General Stanley McChrystal.
"Every time I visit with our troops I am inspired by their dedication, professionalism and courage," said Congressman Kingston. "While the situation has deteriorated since my last visit, I am confident of our success under the leadership of General McChrystal. Finally, the Afghan army and Pakistan understand that we will not be there forever and they have to assume responsibility to root out the Taliban."
Congressman Kingston likens clearing out Taliban insurgents to combating fire ants. "When you clear them from one area, they just pop up in another," he said. What has changed, Kingston learned, is that Coalition forces will now employ a more comprehensive strategy. The strategy is summarized in five words: Shape, Clear, Hold, Build, Transfer.
"We're already seeing this new strategy play out in Marja," Congressman Kingston said. "First we shape and area by identifying it, then we clear it of Taliban insurgents. As we are able to hold the area and lift the Afghan flag, we build the human and physical infrastructure before transferring it to Afghan control. We're closing the gap between military victory and civilian control."
Congressman Kingston believes the success of that strategy is crucial to the winning the fight and building an Afghanistan that will never return to Taliban control. To safely withdraw American forces, Congressman Kingston sees two obstacles: building a sufficient civilian police force and plugging the holes in the nation's border with Pakistan.
"As it stands, local police forces in Afghanistan are filled with corruption," said Congressman Kingston. "In order to get Afghanistan on her feet under the peaceful rule of law, it's essential the people have an honest partner in those charged with policing them. Therefore a new and better trained national police force is needed to replace the local existing units."
On addressing the movement of insurgents between the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Congressman Kingston sees Pakistan as stepping up to the plate.
"In the past, Pakistan has not been fully engaged in the war but today they are taking ownership and seem to have realized they can no longer ignore their own danger," Congressman Kingston said. "Pakistani forces are now actively engaging the Taliban and are doing their part toward Coalition success in Afghanistan."
One area lacking in the strategy, Congressman Kingston notes, is how to address the nation's dependence on growing poppies -- a flower from which opium is produced. With an annual impact of $100 million, the crop is essential to the nation's economy but ties it to narcotics trafficking.
"No attempt is being made to hide the crop because we currently have no way to replace its dominance of the country," said Congressman Kingston. "We're more than quadrupling the number of Agriculture advisors in the country in an effort to help transition farmers to other profitable crops but we still don't have a definitive answer. Until we are successful in this effort, it will remain a wild card to the future of Afghanistan."