The Debate Over Troops in Afghanistan

January 7, 2011

A great many voices in Washington are now calling for troop withdrawal and a scaling down of the US effort in Afghanistan. The challenge is, what happens then? While I understand Rep. Barbara Lee’s opposition to sending additional troops, time on the ground in Afghanistan shows that there are gains being made when it comes to training and equipping the Afghan National Army. The White House faces a great challenge in explaining to the American public why this war matters to this and the next generation, and why American treasure should be devoted to fighting it. The pressure to make this case is only going to rise in the coming months as the July 2011 withdrawal date begins to near. During my trip to Afghanistan last month, women talked openly about their fears about what, exactly, July 2011 means. They do not ask for American and NATO troops to remain in their country forever, but they do ask for the US to assist Afghanistan for a bit longer as the nation’s own forces come up to speed. They want time to see their Army grow strong enough to fill the security gap the Americans will leave in their wake. And they believe that their ability to contribute to their communities and defend their own rights depends on it. Whether they will get this time remains to be seen. It will, in part, depend on the White House’s ability to communicate to the American public just why this war remains a national priority that matters to their own — and their children’s — security.