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Afghanistan is still worth fighting for

A Q&A with foreign affairs scholar Francis Fukuyama

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President Obama has stated the US objective in Afghanistan is "disrupting, defeating and dismantling Al Qaeda." Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates has said that we are not seeking to build some democratic "Valhalla" there. Yet, now a new surge of troops is being called for to "stabilize" and "hold" areas until effective governance can take place. Yet, the recent election disputes clearly show that is not coming any time soon. Isn't this, therefore, mission creep toward nation-building and a long commitment in the wrong place, especially since the consensus among intelligence officials is that Al Qaeda has now moved to Pakistan?

No, this isn't mission creep, this is just good counterinsurgency warfare. Counterinsurgency is a political strategy for winning hearts and minds, and you can't do that without effective governance.

Secretary Gates has also said that [NATO commander in Afghanistan] General [Stanley] McChrystal's new counterinsurgency strategy – avoid killing civilians, clear and hold – will have a year to show that it is working. We've been here before watching the mujahideen fighting the Soviets. A year is less than a moment to the Taliban who are still fighting against the contamination of Buddhism millennia ago, not to speak of the Soviet infidels only a couple of decades ago. Surely they will wait out any surge and just return later?

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