Readers write about what the US should – and shouldn't – do in Afghanistan.
Regarding the Feb. 17 Opinion piece, "A reality check for Obama on Afghanistan": False historical analogies make bad policy, but they make excellent headlines. There simply is no comparison between the Russian military occupation of Afghanistan and the American intervention. The former sought to dominate and impose a foreign culture, the latter to reconstruct and stabilize a devastated nation.
For US policymakers, confidence building will be key during the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration. Afghanistan's leadership must be reassured that their country will not fall victim to American political infighting, which would abandon them to the designs of their neighbors.
Afghanistan may be a "land polka-dotted in graveyards beyond counting," as the author insists. However, that does not mean that Afghanistan is condemned to a future of protracted conflict and pervasive suffering. President Obama and his special envoy Richard Holbrooke must head off these criticisms by assertively arguing that Afghanistan is neither Iraq nor Vietnam. Our national leaders must prepare US citizens for a generational commitment and further sacrifices, while defining specific benchmarks for success. Defeating Al Qaeda or the Taliban were never realistic goals, and the former administration failed to speak frankly about the nature of the Afghan mission.
Afghanistan has been the graveyard of many empires. But the American mission in Afghanistan is not imperial. The Afghan people recognize that they are not victims of a crusade against Islam, and that their future lies in a partnership with the US and the international community. Now is the time for solidarity with the Afghan people, not for false analogies.