Two different approaches, two different outcomes in Afghanistan
By Congressman Joe Pitts
Over the last thirty years Afghanistan has been the site of major military actions by the world's superpowers - the United States and the Soviet Union . Each power had its own motives and objectives for going to war there. Each employed its own strategies for meeting those objectives. Each experienced vastly different outcomes.
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up a communist puppet regime that was in danger of failing. Two days after its invasion it installed a new KGB-controlled dictator who took his orders directly from Moscow . The Afghans were enraged by the invasion and by the puppet regime Moscow installed. They went to war against the invaders and ten years later drove them out.
Fast forward to 2001. Six weeks after the September 11th attacks, President Bush sent our military into Afghanistan to remove the regime that harbored Osama bin Laden and to destroy al Qaeda.
General Tommy Franks, the head of military operation in both Afghanistan and Iraq has said, "I will tell you that in the nine or 10 years of Soviet experience in Afghanistan , they put 620,000 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan . And I think the results of that particular approach to the Afghan problem are recorded well in history."
Indeed they are. After ten years on the ground, Soviet troops, in an effort to manipulate the Afghan political process, were expelled. They returned to Moscow licking their wounds. The differences between the Soviet and American motives and methods could not be more clear.
After three years on the ground there, our military, working closely with NATO and UN forces, have overseen the first national democratic elections in the nation's history. The United States went into Afghanistan not to occupy or install a puppet regime. Rather, our intent was to secure the nation and remove a regime that harmed its own people and the world by harboring terrorists. While we secured the nation, the Afghans themselves set to work on their own government that took into account the unique challenges, needs, and values of their own nation.
While there was a minor dispute over the ballots, by all accounts the election held in early October was a resounding success. This week, Hamid Karzai, the interim President, was certified as the duly elected leader of a democratic Afghanistan .
This is important as we discuss the President's leadership - and specifically his approach to Afghanistan - just days from our own elections. President Bush understood that to adopt a Soviet strategy of pouring troops into Afghanistan was a recipe for disaster. This strategy would have been interpreted as an effort to occupy and colonize rather than secure and liberate. We had to make clear that the Taliban had to go, but in its place, the Afghan people would choose their own government. There would be no puppet regime set up by our military.
Some critics suggest that we do not have enough troops there. Senator John Kerry has made some political hay by claiming that President Bush "outsourced" the job of finding bin Laden to warlords. It's a clever turn of phrase, but he's just plain wrong.
General Franks, the man actually in charge of planning operations in Afghanistan and Iraq , told the media that our military has exactly what it needs in Afghanistan . There is not a shortage of resources to hunt down bin Laden and there has not been a diversion to Iraq . I would take his word on military matters any day.
Putting hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan would unnecessarily expose them to untold dangers in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan . What Senator Kerry and his fellow critics fail to understand is that local allies must be given a role for this operation to be effective.
In the long run, helping nations break free from tyranny is the best strategy to fight terror. President Bush knows that and has put it into practice.
In Afghanistan , the Bush strategy has led to the establishment of a democratically elected government where once there was an extremist, fundamentalist regime that harbored the most deadly terrorist in the world. Today, President Karzai is leading his nation towards a brighter, democratic future.
In Iraq we must remain committed to a similar course - working with local allies, establishing security, allowing the Iraqi people to choose their own future for their own nation.
President Bush understands and understands the need to remain committed to this long-term effort to eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan , in Iraq , and beyond.