A column first published by theÂ KPC Media Group in the News-Sun (Noble & LaGrange Counties), the Evening Star (DeKalb County), and the Herald-Republican (Steuben County), reprinted here with the permission of Rep. Mark Souder:
What are we fighting for in Afghanistan?
by Mark Souder – January 5, 2010
THIS IS THE FIRST of several columns by U.S. Rep. Mark Souder following his recent trip to Afghanistan.
For most people, the answer to why thousands of Americans and our coalition partners are fighting in Afghanistan is simple: because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A more in-depth, explanation involves a historical view of the decades of war in Afghanistan. First, the Russians were chased out of Afghanistan, with our assistance. The book “Charlie Wilson’s War” is a fairly accurate account (the movie less so).
When the Russians retreated, Afghanistan descended into tribal chaos. Warlords put up taxing checkpoints along the highways. During one period, the road from Kandahar to Quetta, Pakistan had “toll points” every 500 yards! If you had a load of pomegranates, by the time you paid your tolls, you had no crates left at the border. It tended to discourage independent farming.
The Taliban took over and provided order. It was a somewhat better life. As long as you didn’t disagree, your throat wouldn’t be slit. Music died. No kite runners. Women had to stay unseen, in homes or inside burkas. Basically it was Las Vegas in reverse.
The Taliban also provided protection for Al Qaida. They are not exactly the same. The Taliban is a mix of Pakistani and Afghans, mostly Pashtuns. Al Qaida are Arabs, recruits from around the world, and a few Afghans. However, the rigid fundamentalism of groups like the Taliban agrees with the condemnation of the Western corruption and hatred of the Jews, so they assist them.
If the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, we are back where we started: a worldwide base for developing terrorists. Our nation’s safety partially depends upon whether an independent Afghan government can be established that at least doesn’t provide a base for Al Qaida.
It’s a tough neighborhood. Iran is its neighbor to the northwest. Pakistan borders Afghanistan south and east. President Ahmadinejad says he would like to annihilate us. Pakistan’s government is slightly more friendly, though it is not clear they control even half their country. The region would be dangerous enough even if Pakistan didn’t have a nuclear bomb and Iran wasn’t nearing completion of one.
Being President Obama is different than being candidate Obama. It is worrisome enough when terrorists threaten a Delta plane or an American bridge. The prospect of Al Qaida allies having a nuclear bomb requires us to focus harder. The president realizes it is time for action, not retreat.
This column was first published by the KPC Media Group in the News-Sun (Noble & LaGrange Counties), the Evening Star (DeKalb County), and the Herald-Republican (Steuben County).