President Obama announced Tuesday that he will send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by next fall with the anticipation that they would begin coming home in July 2011. The eight-year war has taken the lives of more than 850 members of the U.S. military.
One South Carolinian who knows the Afghanistan experience very well is Richland County Representative James Smith, who served as a National Guard Captain there between May 2007 and May 2008. He commanded a team of combat advisers with the Afghan National Police.
Smith says he had an internet conversation with the person who had served as his interpreter in Afghanistan, just after the President made the announcement Tuesday night.
“And it was clear to me from our conversation,” said the Democrat, “that if we maintain our current effort, or begin to reduce, we’re going to see the Taliban move right back in, take over and establish a base to begin exporting terrorism again.”
National reports on Thursday said that top Democrats and Republicans are questioning whether President Obama is too focused on problems in Afghanistan at the expense of other national security priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the White House to send its entire national security team to brief members of Congress about the plan.
Smith says he agrees with the President’s decision. Smith says the U.S. effort in Afghanistan has produced results and can continue to do so. “The status quo is not sustainable,” he said. “I don’t feel there are any good choices, but I feel that the President made the right choice since we have a vital national security interest in the region, not just Afghanistan. From my experience, we can be successful. We suffer from a lack of it being the priority effort early on. After eight years we would all love for everyone to come home, but that’s just not possible this time.”
In Brussels on Thursday, Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, told media that reconciliation between the current Afghan leadership and the Taliban has been on the back burner but is now moving up.