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Leave Afghanistan now

Armed ForcesAfghanistanReligious ConflictsBarack ObamaNATO

Most wars have a turning point that either signals the road to victory or the ditch of defeat. In Vietnam, the 1968 Tet Offensive by communist troops against South Vietnamese and American forces and their allies is regarded as the turning point in that conflict. Though communist forces suffered heavy losses, which would normally define defeat, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkiteand others in the U.S. media portrayed the operation as an allied loss, thus encouraging not only the anti-war movement, but North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops who believed all they had to do was hang on until America grew tired of the war and quit.

Since the Obama administration appears to care more about not offending those Afghans who want to kill Americans and since it has announced the deadline for the withdrawal of surge-level troops in Afghanistan for later this year, despite the fact that they have stymied the efforts of Taliban insurgents to destabilize the country, maybe it's time to pull all U.S. forces out and leave our puppet, Hamid Karzai, to his fate.

The latest affront comes courtesy of the burning of Qurans by U.S. soldiers on a military base near Kabul. Military officials maintain the Qurans were being used by imprisoned jihadists to pass messages to other prisoners and were confiscated and destroyed. A spokesman for the NATO-led force said the troops, "... should have known to check with cultural advisers to determine how to dispose of religious material properly." For this unintended action, however, Mr. Karzai wants the soldiers to be put on trial and has asked NATO commanders to allow it. If they do, they will have disgraced their uniform.

Does writing in a Quran desecrate it? One might expect it would, but the outrage is over the burning, not the writing. More than 1,700 Americans have died in and around Afghanistan and more than 14,000 have been wounded since the United States invaded shortly after Sept. 11, 2011. And this is the thanks we get? How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless puppet.

When do jihadists apologize for mass murder or religious persecution? Two years ago in Rasht, Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who converted from Islam, was arrested on charges of apostasy. He has been sentenced to hang for his religious conversion. Anyone hear any apologies from "moderate" Muslims about that, much less attempts to shame the ayatollahs, or label them apostates?

The New York Times reported recently that President Barack Obama's three-page apology letter to President Karzai contained these sentences: "I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies." This will only serve as further evidence to our enemies in Afghanistan of America's weakness and lack of resolve in what is likely to be a very long and global war. American impatience, fatigue and a desire not to offend do not bode well for an American victory or for Afghan liberation. No one worried about offending our enemies during World War II. That's why the forces for good won.

Can Afghanistan be stabilized so as not to pose a threat to America and American interests? Probably not, if the surge forces pull out on schedule and America continues to fight under restrictive and self-imposed rules of war while the enemy does not.

So what's the point? Are we to stay only until after the election so President Obama won't be asked, "Who lost Afghanistan?" If our troops are coming out anyway and if the administration can't define victory, or commit the resources necessary to achieve it, waiting longer only ensures more casualties. As with Vietnam, that is a waste of blood and treasure. Ask the ghosts of the more than 58,000 fallen whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, or the ghosts of the politicians who are responsible for putting them in their graves.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at tmseditors@tribune.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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