U.S. Mission in Afghanistan Ill-Defined

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Absent more U.S. troops, the mission in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure," says Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, according to a "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure,' " [front page, Sept. 21].

But what is the mission, and who defined it?

If it is (a) to pacify all of the country for the first time, the person who defined it that way should be fired, or, if he is a few months into a four-year term, he should rethink the mission.

If the mission is (b) to substantially reduce opium poppy production, that can be done largely from the air without vast numbers of troops.

If it is (c) to keep al-Qaeda on its back foot and (d) to keep Kabul and the connection with Pakistan via the Khyber Pass under the control of the Afghan government, leaving that government to pacify the rest of the country with some assistance from us, or at least to reduce the degree of lawlessness, I doubt that more U.S. troops are needed.

Goals B, C and D are our business and are achievable; goal A is neither.


New York

© 2009 The Washington Post Company