A tough summer ahead

The Baltimore Sun

This summer, Afghanistan is increasingly the deadlier war of America's two, but there's not much that can be done. Most U.S. forces are preoccupied in Iraq or preparing to cycle out and too exhausted to be reassigned to Afghanistan. NATO forces want no part of supplementing America's brave troops, and the Taliban is marshaling recruits daily, building a formidable and violent counterinsurgency. This was the war that should have been won but for the Bush administration's arrogance.

At least the nation's top military man isn't dodging the issue. On the contrary, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has conceded that he is tapped out militarily and can't summon the troop strength that would save lives - and, perhaps, Afghanistan - from a growing internal threat.

More American soldiers died in Afghanistan in June - 28 - than in any other month since they arrived in 2001. Replacing them with fresh and additional troops is what's needed to combat the growing Taliban menace, according to Admiral Mullen. His candid assessment reinforces the urgency for a quicker draw-down of troops in Iraq. But President Bush's surge and its accompanying 145,000 soldiers have stabilized areas of Iraq, and the Iraqis rely on this constancy.

Admiral Mullen has counseled patience, but without reinforcements to help the soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, time benefits the Afghan insurgents, not the 32,000 American troops serving there along with 28,000 from 40 nations. President Bush has promised additional troops by year's end, just as he is packing his bags for his ranch in Texas.

It will be a tough summer for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and as potentially as difficult a fall.

This is the consequence of fighting two wars at once, one unnecessarily. This is the legacy of George W. Bush, and the history books should record it as such.

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