This month, the United States enters its ninth year of seemingly never-ending troop escalation in Afghanistan.
In 2002, there were a mere 5,000 U.S. troops there. The number quadrupled in three years. When President Barack Obama came to office, some 37,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Afghanistan. He has steadily increased the U.S. presence — to 68,000 today. And now, some in the U.S. military are recommending a U.S. presence of 100,000 troops.
It is not "dithering," in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, to stop, take a deep breath and do a cold, rational assessment of what are vital and peripheral U.S. interests in Afghanistan.
This is no time to blindly up the ante, engaging in the sorts of gradual escalation that prolonged the inconclusive Vietnam War. Nor is it time for a rush to judgment and precipitous action -– as the Bush administration did with the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
This is a time for steady presidential nerves, not being pushed into either a crash program or creeping escalation with little attention to vital strategic questions: Do we really need a large-scale, ever-increasing, long-term presence in Afghanistan to keep it from being a significant safe haven for al-Qaida? What would a civil war or a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan mean for the safety of the United States?
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