On the Front Lines in Afghanistan
The war in Iraq has ended. Violent elements remain, but they no longer threaten the very fabric of Iraq. The Iraqi Army, police and government continue to outpace the elements that would prefer to see Iraq in chaos. Iraq is no longer an enemy. There is no reason for us to ever shoot at each other again. But Afghanistan is a different story. I write these words from Kandahar, in the south. This war here is just getting started. Likely we will see severe fighting kicking off by about April of 2009. Iraq is on the mend, but victory in Afghanistan is very much in question.
Zabul Province, Afghanistan
While Americans sleep tight in their beds, this time of year U.S. soldiers sit shivering through the frigid, crystal clear nights at remote outposts in places most of us have never heard of and will never see. Often they head out into the enveloping darkness, to hunt down and destroy terrorists, who continue to kill innocent Afghans, Americans, Aussies, Balinese, Brits, Indians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Spanish ... in short, anyone who opposes their violent tyranny. Their greatest weapons are ignorance and terror. Witness the latest unprovoked attack on our friends in India.
These enemies have no wish to reconcile with their fellow countrymen, or compromise in any way that would diminish their control of the lives of the ordinary Afghans who don't share their feral vision of life. They throw acid in the faces of little girls whose only crime is that they go to school. So we must continue to send our toughest men to confront them eye to eye, while performing the difficult balancing act of not alienating those who intend us no harm. This is particularly difficult in Afghanistan, a proud nation with a deep tradition of antipathy toward outsiders -- even those who are here to help, though I am finding many Afghans clearly do not want us to leave.