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Don’t Stay the Course
A response to McCain, Lieberman, and Graham

White House press secretary Jay Carney delivers a press briefing on March 19, 2012.

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Andrew C. McCarthy

He couldn’t name a single one.

In this tense campaign season, al-Qaeda is very much in the front of the Obama administration’s mind. In fact, administration officials can’t remind you often enough that Barack rubbed out Osama — which you may see as a no-brainer, but which, to hear them tell it, was actually the greatest single act of executive courage in half a millennium. Yet, when ABC’s Jake Tapper recently asked White House press secretary Jay Carney, “When’s the last time U.S. troops in Afghanistan killed anybody associated with al-Qaeda?” Obama’s mouthpiece went mum.

This was not a concession that the Afghan mission is pointless. It was a powerful indication that the Afghan mission has already been accomplished.

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The Carney-Tapper exchange was worth bearing in mind while perusing the fanciful op-ed published in the Washington Post this week by Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham. The senators insist that we must stay the course in Afghanistan.

In advertising, the disclaimer always warns that “past performance does not guarantee future results.” From the senators’ perspective, let’s hope that’s true. Their last memorable joint op-ed, about how we could not allow Moammar Qaddafi “to consolidate his grip” on Libya, came hot on the heels of their joint support for U.S. aid that helped Qaddafi consolidate his grip on Libya. On that past performance, we’d expect to find the senators regaling us a year from now with another op-ed about how we suddenly need to “drop a bomb” on today’s favorite flavor, Hamid Karzai.

In Afghanistan, there are presently about 99,000 U.S. troops, the lion’s share of a 130,000-strong NATO contingent. Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham worry, for good reason, that American tolerance for that state of affairs has been exhausted by a series of atrocities that demonstrates Afghan contempt for the West. The senators gingerly describe these incidents as “examples of the few Afghan soldiers who despicably turned their weapons on Americans.”

Sorry, gentlemen: Quite apart from the murderous riots over accidental Koran burnings, American and coalition forces are the targets of an unrelenting assassination campaign by Afghan security forces. Michael Yon puts the number at 200 coalition members killed in nearly 50 documented incidents. That, moreover, does not count Mohammed Merah, the self-proclaimed al-Qaeda jihadist who killed seven people in Toulouse this week — after being sent back to France by U.S. forces who captured him in Afghanistan, where he’d naturally gone to hone his craft.

This is to be expected. Afghan “security” forces are rife with jihadists. Not just Taliban sympathizers, either: This is a fundamentalist-Islamic country, and its military and police would teem with Islamists even if there were no Taliban.

And about those security forces: The senators claim that “hundreds of thousands of Afghans fight every day as our faithful allies in a common battle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” The inference is that you need to put the deadly sabotage against our troops in perspective, but it is the senators who have lost theirs.

There are only about 170,000 soldiers in the whole Afghan army — not “hundreds of thousands.” Even if you inflate their numbers by throwing in about 130,000 Afghan police, the picture the senators paint of hordes of “Afghan patriots” is hyperbole — especially when their performance is factored in. The security forces are said to be somewhat better than they once were, but drug use, absenteeism, and corruption are notoriously rampant — as is infiltration by Taliban and Haqqani forces, as well as a disturbing propensity to sell their weapons to the highest bidder when not pointing them at American soldiers. To mention the Afghans in the same sentence as our troops is absurd.



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