Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 9 News List

US teeters on the edge of swamp of uncertainty in Afghanistan

History is on the side of the skeptics in Afghanistan, where from Alexander the Great to the Soviets, all foreign invaders have eventually been repelled

By Richard Halloran

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, evidently miffed by these pessimistic views, told reporters traveling with him to Europe: “While we face significant challenges in Afghanistan, there certainly is no reason to be defeatist or to underestimate the opportunities to be successful in the long run.”

“Part of the solution is strengthening the Afghan security forces,” he said. “Part of the solution is reconciliation with people who are willing to work with the Afghan government.”

Gates suggested that the US would negotiate with insurgents willing to work with the Afghan government.

A ray of light came from another British veteran of the Afghan wars, Brigadier Ed Butler, who told a US Army historian that a tribe where he had been operating had worked out an agreement with the government in Kabul over “what the security measures would be, what the access was, who was going to govern, who would elect the chief of police and everything else.”

All told, however, history is on side of the skeptics.

From the days of Alexander the Great in about 325 BC, through the Arabs, the Mongols twice, the British twice, and the Soviets from 1979 to 1989, Afghans have resisted and ultimately prevailed against foreign invaders.

Richard Halloran is a writer based in Hawaii.

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