In Afghanistan, send in a truce instead of U.S. tanks

Monday, November 22, 2010; 8:12 PM

The article "U.S. sending tanks to hit harder at Taliban" [front page, Nov. 19] will strike many Americans as a strange tactic in a war supposedly being conducted "to win the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people. The article said that these 68-ton tanks can do wonderful things; they are even equipped with a gun that "can destroy a house more than a mile away." A house sheltering Taliban insurgents, one would assume. But in a war that has often seen a slip between the cup and the lip, will those houses just be "thought" to be harboring Taliban insurgents or will they become sites of collateral damage, the kind that has already lost us the hearts of many good Afghans?

Soviet tanks plowed along dusty Afghan roads for nine years, killing Afghans and ending up on rubbish heaps, their crews the victims of roadside bombs placed by "freedom fighters." That war cost the Soviets more than 13,000 dead and 10,751 disabled. "Their Vietnam War" was often used to define the Soviet conflict. Eerily, "Vietnam" is heard in reference to our Afghan war.

One does not need a crystal ball to see that history is repeating itself. A truce is in order and within our scope. Along with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, we should offer safe Taliban representatives and our Pakistani allies safe conduct to Kabul, and begin hammering out a truce to end this devastating war. It's long overdue, but the odds for success exceed those for our ever winning on the ground. Afghanistan has never been a haven for foreigners.

To negotiate is an idea whose time has come, and the ball is in our court.

Vera Gottschalk Jensen, Falls Church


© 2010 The Washington Post Company