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StarBulletin.com

Inouye makes strong case


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POSTED: Thursday, October 15, 2009

Expressing new optimism about U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye says he supports Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy involving increased troop involvement. Such a policy direction could expand the mission from defeating al-Qaeda to challenging an extremist Taliban presence across Afghanistan and Pakistan, a daunting task that should not be taken lightly.

After several days of meeting with Afghan and Pakistan presidents, U.S. military leaders including McChrystal, and Hawaii-based troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Inouye agrees with the general's call for coalition forces to have “;more daily contact with the people of Afghanistan.”; Such contact, he said in a written statement, “;is correct and is what is needed if we are to achieve security and stability in Afghanistan.”;

The rationale is disturbingly similar to the “;hearts and minds”; strategy that failed in Vietnam. And it comes only a few weeks after Inouye noted to Politico magazine that Alexander the Great, the Soviets and the British all “;got thrown out”; of Afghanistan. “;For some reason,”; he said, “;Afghanistan always has succeeded in getting people out of there.”;

The position by Inouye, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also puts him at odds with Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., his House counterpart, who has threatened to cut off funding in case of continued lack of progress. An attempt to challenge the Taliban is “;going to require hundreds of thousands of American, Pakistani and Afghan troops,”; he said on Tuesday, “;and I just don't believe that this country wants to see that happen.”;

U.S. troops in Afghanistan now number 67,000 and an additional 1,000 are scheduled to arrive there by the end of this year. McChrystal has advised President Barack Obama that 10,000 to 80,000 troops—he favors a compromise of 40,000—should be added in the first few months of next year at the earliest.

Inouye said he will await specific recommendations from the White House and the Pentagon to decide how many he will find acceptable. If that number is 40,000 or 50,000, he added, “;that's what we'll send, but much more discussion has to take place before a final decision on troop levels can be made.”;

Inouye said that if U.S. troops were to withdraw from Afghanistan now, its government “;will not survive and the consequences will be detrimental to the region and will ultimately threaten the security of the United States.”;

In recent weeks, the Taliban has increased its militant attacks in Pakistan, prompting that country's army to put in place 28,000 troops to take on 10,000 hardcore Taliban within its borders. That amounts to a full-scale guerilla war that threatens the stability of the nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

Combined with the potential of a popular Taliban overthrow of the present corrupt Afghanistan government, Inouye makes a strong case for an increase in troop levels. Obama must decide what is necessary and effective at the least cost in dollars and lives.