Kinzer: Surge Diplomacy, Not Troops, in Afghanistan

USA Today reports that Gen. McKiernan - top U.S. commander in
Afghanistan - "has asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers,
Marines and airmen" to augment U.S. forces. McKiernan says U.S. troop
levels of 55,000 to 60,000 in Afghanistan will be needed for "at least
three or four more years." He added: "If we put these additional
forces in here, it's going to be for the next few years. It's not a
temporary increase of combat strength."

We should have a vigorous national debate before embarking on this
course. Contrary to what one might think from a quick scan of the
newspapers, there are knowledgeable voices questioning whether
increasing the deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan is in our
interest, or is in the interest of the Afghan people.

Bestselling author and former longtime New York Times foreign
correspondent Stephen Kinzer argues the opposite in this five minute

Kinzer argues that sending more U.S. troops is likely to be
counterproductive. It's likely to produce more anger in Afghanistan,
and more anger is likely to produce more recruits for the Taliban. A
better alternative would surge diplomacy instead, reaching out to
people who are now supporting the Taliban.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are very different forces, argues Kinzer. The
Taliban has deep roots in Afghan society. Many of the warlords allied
with the Taliban are not fanatic ideologues.

Afghanistan is a place of fluid loyalties, Kinzer notes. A warlord
allied with the Taliban may not be anti-American, or if he is today,
he need not be tomorrow. We should take advantage of these fluid
loyalties, and try to follow the diplomatic solution that Afghans and
Afghan leaders are advocating.

Almost all the money in Afghanistan fueling the insurgency comes from
the Afghan poppy crop, the source of most of the world's heroin,
Kinzer notes. We're trying to crush that poppy-growing culture in an
impossible way, Kinzer says. Burning and spraying poppy fields will
never achieve that goal. All that does is impoverish Afghans and make
them more angry at us.

The entire Afghan poppy crop is worth four billion dollars a year.
We're now spending $4 billion a month on our war in Afghanistan. Let's
take one of those months, and buy the entire poppy crop, suggests
Kinzer. That way we're not impoverishing Afghans, we're putting money
in their pockets instead of shooting them and burning down their
houses. We'd use some of that to make morphine for medical use and we
could burn the rest.

If we continue to act as if there's a military solution in
Afghanistan, we're just going to get further dragged down into
quagmire. There is a way out, Kinzer says. We can follow a much more
sophisticated diplomatic and political strategy in a way that will
reduce the ability of the Taliban to attract young recruits. What
we're doing now is the opposite, fueling the insurgency. Sending fewer
troops to Afghanistan, not more, is needed to stabilize Afghanistan.

If you agree with Stephen Kinzer, why not send a
to that effect to President-elect Obama?

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