U.S. ground troops are increasingly strained through extended operations in Iraq, and the American public is becoming disillusioned with military intervention throughout the world. The sinking ship of Iraq threatens to bring Afghanistan down with it. But Afghanistan is not Iraq.
Afghanistan and Iraq pose different challenges; the United States can accomplish its mission in Afghanistan because:
- Afghanistan has a legitimate government led by President Hamid Karzai that is representative of its people, despite problems with corruption, lack of capacity, and an insufficient presence outside of Kabul. While Karzai’s popularity has decreased since 2005, the majority of Afghan citizens are still supportive of his leadership.
- A functioning parliament exists that is an effective counterweight to executive power in Afghanistan.
- A general consensus exists among Afghanistan’s different ethnicities and communities over the government of Afghanistan.
- The United States is not alone in Afghanistan; 37 countries make up the NATO-International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the United Nations is also playing a strong role. The Afghan government and the international community have a shared agenda and set of goals, embodied by the Afghanistan Compact, which was negotiated by 53 countries in January 2006 and is supported by the Asian Development Bank, the G8 countries, the European Union, and the World Bank.
- The Afghan National Army is loyal to the Afghan government and not to a specific sectarian group, and sectarian strife is not dividing the country.
- Polling of the Afghan people shows that majorities support an international troop presence and few support the Taliban. While these numbers vary regionally, and are lower in the south, the overall support is positive.
- While more should be done, progress has been made in reconstruction efforts, including the expansion of independent media and communications, and building roads.