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The Long War Goes On

1:04 PM, May 9, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Max Boot writes in the Wall Street Journal

Those who claim that we can disengage from Afghanistan now that the "emir" of al Qaeda is dead seem to assume the whole organization will disappear with him. It might, but it might not. Other terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have survived the loss of their leaders. Opponents of the war effort also argue that the Navy SEAL raid should be a model for the kind of counterterrorist approach we should adopt more generally, relying on pinpoint strikes rather than dispatching 100,000 ground troops to carry out a grueling counterinsurgency campaign....

To prevent the fall of Afghanistan, we must do more than launch a few raids or air strikes. If not, the terrorists will be able to regenerate themselves. That's what the Taliban, the Haqqanis and others did between 2001 and 2009—the years when we never had more than 30,000 troops on the ground. Only last fall did we finally surge to 100,000 American troops, along with 40,000 allied ones. For the first time, that gave us the capability to "clear, hold and build." During my recent travels in Kandahar and Helmand, I saw coalition troops securing areas that only a few months before were Taliban strongholds.

But the gains achieved so far are tenuous and reversible. The Taliban are back on the offensive. It is vital to stick to the strategy NATO announced last fall of not putting Afghans in the lead until 2014. Moving too quickly to turn over control to unready forces can be disastrous—as shown by last month's breakout of more than 400 Taliban fighters from Kandahar's main prison.

If we give more time to Gen. David Petraeus and his successor, Gen. John Allen, they can strengthen Afghanistan enough—mainly by building up the indigenous security forces—to prevent a Taliban takeover or a ruinous civil war even after U.S. forces finally start drawing down. That, in turn, can help us to stabilize Pakistan: an outcome worth fighting for.

Whole thing here.

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