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Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of July 26, 2010

Readers write in about the war in Afghanistan, census workers, and CEO pay.

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Afghanistan is unwinnable

The article and editorial about Afghanistan in the July 5 issue ("Shifting generals, but not strategy" and "The Afghanistan price tag") could not, of course, begin to cover all the unplumbed complexity of the Afghan puzzle. Having lived in Afghanistan for three years in the mid-1970s, let me offer other angles that deserve serious thought.

Perhaps the most insuperable barrier to our "winning" (an irrelevant concept in the Afghan puzzlement) is the belief by the Taliban and many other Afghans that the American and NATO forces are foreign invaders and must be denied any right of presence or control. President Hamid Karzai's desperate dependence on our presence must tarnish him irreparably, despite his occasional rants against our killing of Afghans.

Using the Iraq surge as a template for the US mission in Afghanistan seems a dangerous delusion. Gen. David Petraeus's "walk on water" in Iraq is overblown. A key to our very tentative "success" in Iraq was the changing of sides by the formidable Sunnis of Anbar Province, a fortunate development that coincided with the US surge. One hopes that Petraeus will soon recognize that his groping for a similar "awakening" in Afghanistan is almost certainly pointless. Afghanistan may be "unwinnable," but clear-eyed analysis may salvage a satisfactory evolution if political emotions don't obtrude.

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