Support for the war in Afghanistan is starting to wane. Just recently it surpassed Vietnam as the longest conflict in American history. There are temptations to compare it to Vietnam, but it is not like Vietnam. Well, I take that back, there are similarities.
Afghanistan, like Vietnam, is in that South Asia region and, thus, halfway around the world. Like Vietnam, it has difficult terrain to traverse. Like Vietnam, our opposition will feed every male they have into the American military wood chipper to win the fight. Also like Vietnam, Pakistan is playing Cambodia with regards to a neighboring country that our enemy is using to rest and transport arms and fighters. That is where the significant similarities end.
Unlike Vietnam, Afghanistan is not cut in half with a sovereign government trying to take control of the whole country. Also unlike Vietnam, while Afghans don't necessarily like their current government they overwhelmingly despise the Taliban. Unlike Vietnam, our opponents are not being backed by a superpower with money and military technology, just money from Saudis. Unlike Vietnam, our allies are actually involved in this war and deem it just. Most importantly, Vietnam was about containing Communism and a short fight where two boats were damaged. The casus belli for Afghanistan was an attack on American soil that took 3,000 American lives. So, unlike Vietnam, Afghanistan is actually about something other that geopolitics.
However, if you give the American public enough time it always sours on a war, just or not. There is growing sentiment to leave. I cannot say this loudly enough: if we leave now we'll be risking another 9/11. Afghanistan is a failed state without American and NATO troops. More importantly, it is a failed state right next to a hotbed of Islamic extremism in Pakistan. If we leave, they will simply set up shop again in Afghanistan and happily plan our demise like they were doing prior to 9/11. Not only that, but their efforts to topple the Pakistani government will intensify and a toppled Pakistani government means loose nuclear weapons that our enemies could lay their hands on. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate suicide bomb. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually the most dangerous time for America. That is because our desire for revenge is waning, our guard is coming down and we are starting to collectively forget the strong emotions of 9/11. Al Qaeda is most certainly weakened because we have denied, disrupted and destroyed. We have killed many high value targets. Their weakness is why they are switching to attacking hotels and stadiums here: because they lack the operational capability to take on the security measures they would need to circumvent to attack the Pentagon again. However, letting our foot up off their throat now would prove a tragic and fatal mistake. General McChrystal is asking for more troops and President Obama's decision is going to necessarily be tempered by the public opinion on sending more troops to Afghanistan. The public needs to get on board with sending more troops to take control of the situation before it reaches a tipping point and spirals out of our control. Half-measures will not cut it.
Walk away knowing that Afghanistan is a must-win. We walk away and more Americans will die and they won't die fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they will die on vacation or watching NFL football. The job must be finished in Afghanistan even if that means remaining there for the next fifty years because daydreams that Afghanistan's central government is going to get it together if we leave are just that: dreams. They have no basis in reality because the government of Afghanistan is a basketcase. The choice is stay and prevent another 9/11 or leave and invite one. It's a simple choice, so simple Americans could make the wrong one.