Your Turn, NH: Will my daughter in Afghanistan share fate of those in Libya?
I recently traveled to Fort Bragg to see my oldest daughter, a captain in the Army. She is about to deploy to Afghanistan on a mission in which teams of two women will augment special forces teams already in the field to assist them in gathering information and winning the "hearts and minds" of the Afghan women and children they encounter. Having served for more than 32 years in the Navy (with my last active duty stint as one of the legal advisors to Gen. Tommy Franks at Central Command) and having experienced the Vietnam War firsthand, I deeply question whether this "mission" she has been selected to fulfill actually has any long-term purpose.
Our current President has spoken of the war in Afghanistan as the "right war" for our forces to be fighting. He endorsed the surge of U.S. troops to defeat the Taliban and to create an environment to allow for the Afghan government to recruit and train its indigenous forces. He has authorized the withdrawal of those surge forces, as their mission is declared complete. Our vice president told us in the vice presidential debate that the Obama administration's policies have been so successful that all our troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2014. We have been told the Afghan army is almost ready to assume the defense of its country. Is this the truth on the ground or merely political spin?
If the administration is telling the truth, then what is the purpose of my daughter's mission? Is her team being sent into action to build additional rapport with the already friendly rural Afghan peoples? Is her team being placed on patrol far from any U.S. main operating base rapid-response team to prove that the Taliban and al-Qaida operatives are no longer a force to be feared in Afghanistan? Or is her team being sent on another "mission of political denial" similar to one the administration apparently gave to our ambassador in Libya?
As we have now learned, both Ambassador Chris Stevens and the embassy security chief in Libya made repeated calls for additional security in the months prior to the terrorist attack in Benghazi. All those requests apparently fell on deaf ears as the ambassador's security was left largely to Libyan forces.
We also know that the embassy's U.S. manned rapid response team that had been stationed in Libya was curiously withdrawn about a month before the Sept. 11 attack. When the attack came, the closest reinforcements were in Tripoli; they arrived too late to rescue Ambassador Stevens.
Is President Obama playing a similar game with our special forces in Afghanistan? Is this game of political denial being played because to admit that al-Qaida is experiencing a strong resurgence in northern Africa and Afghanistan undercuts the Obama/Biden argument that they have won the war on terrorism?
Where will the rapid response for my daughter's team be if rural Afghanistan turns out to be populated with well-armed Taliban and al-Qaida operatives? Is this administration relying on the Afghan army to man that response? If so, is this yet one more game of political brinkmanship being played with American lives?
The fact is that the Obama administration failed to assess and react to the security threats in Libya and it seems determined to repeat that failure in Afghanistan. Is Afghanistan Obama's Vietnam?
Robert J. Kasper Jr. is a retired U.S. Navy captain from Walpole.