On the campaign trail, President Bush proclaims Afghanistan as a success in the war on terror. But last Friday, he quietly put Afghanistan on a list of major drug producing countries, “Despite good faith efforts on the part of the central Afghanistan government, the president reported his concerns about the increased opium crop production and the government’s lack of capacity to prevail in the provinces.”
Resurgent Taliban forces, al Qaeda terrorists, and regional warlords are financing their guerrilla war against US, NATO, and Afghan national troops by selling $2.3 billion worth of opium every year. Opium now accounts for half the country’s economy.
Due to increasing violence and instability, Afghan President Hamid Karzai postponed presidential and parliamentary elections until next year. President Bush subsequently convinced him to hold just the presidential election in October of this year – right before Bush’s own election – in order to proclaim victory in Afghanistan.
Karzai agreed, despite the escalating violence, the fact that he can’t leave his Presidential Palace without getting rockets shot at him, and “the prospect of Mr. Karzai ruling until next spring without the counterweight of an elected legislature is producing fractures in Kabul's ruling coalition. Northern Alliance commanders -- who expected their power to be extended through the parliamentary poll -- decried its delay as unconstitutional.”
The good news is, Britain is pulling troops out of Iraq next month and shifting its military priorities to Afghanistan.
As British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi yesterday and rebuked Europe for not offering more assistance in Iraq, The Observer was reporting that Britain will start pulling troops out of Iraq next month, "The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units."
And The Independent reports, "A far bigger British deployment [to Afghanistan] is being mooted, meanwhile, to take place early in 2005, a critical time when a series of dangerous security problems are expected to converge. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, says plans have been made to send a headquarters staff and a brigade-sized force of around 8,000 peacekeeping soldiers to Afghanistan."
During a visit to Iraq last week, Gen. Jackson said, "The Army is only as big as it is, but one-offs like this can be done. We have got to prioritise if we have to make a sustained contribution to Afghanistan. We couldn't have a sustained brigade in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the balance depends on events."
Priorities. That's the problem when you're running a two-front war, isn't it? Apparently, the British see Afghanistan as a bigger priority than Iraq. And rightly so, in my opinion. Osama bin Laden is not in Iraq.
As President Bush shifted to Iraq the valuable military and intelligence assets necessary for destroying al Qaeda and winning the peace in Afghanistan, Senator Bob Graham was told by General Tommy Franks, "First, we should win the war in Afghanistan. Second, move to Somalia, which as he described was almost anarchy but with a substantial number of al Qaeda cells; then to Yemen. And that we should be very careful about Iraq, because our intelligence was so weak that we didn't know what we were getting into."
Unfortunately, President Bush has a habit of ignoring intelligence and dismissing the concerns of his military officers. In fact, it's becoming ever clearer that President Bush is also disregarding the terrorist threat, just as he ignored it before 9/11, in order to pursue some ideological adventure in Iraq, "I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
I sincerely hope that Britain's leadership in reprioritizing from Iraq to Afghanistan will elicit a similar resolve from other NATO countries, so that Afghanistan can be purged of al Qaeda. Perhaps the British will show more resolve than President Bush has done in destroying the man and the organization that attacked our country and killed thousands of Americans.