Afghanistan and 2008 US presidential politics

Six more Canadian soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan while riding in a “mine-resistant vehicle.”

Meanwhile, BBC World Service ran a radio documentary this morning about rampant corruption in Afghanistan. Police jobs are auctioned, because people are willing to pay to get in for the graft opportunities. The corruption may be driving more people to support Taliban insurgents. For all their brutality, the Taliban is remembered for being relatively clean, the BBC reported.

With the ever-present possibility of an early election given Canada’s parliamentary system and current minority government, the question of when to bring an end to the Afghanistan commitment is very much a matter of debate between the parties in that country. Yet the operation is almost totally noncontroversial in the US.

Even Bill Richardson, the only candidate among those with some realistic chance of getting the Democratic nomination who is calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq–“no residual bases left behind” –calls for increasing the US role in Afghanistan:

We must redeploy some of our troops to Afghanistan to stop the resurgence of the Taliban and to fight the real terrorists who attacked this country on 9-11.

That was a defensible position in 2004. Is it still in 2007?

Will any contender for the leadership of the USA dare suggest moving towards closure to the open-ended commitment in Afghanistan? Don’t count on it. Not even Dennis Kucinich mentions Afghanistan prominently on his issues page. Mike Gravel at least mentions it, sort of in passing, in the context of opposing military action against Iran (which he makes his second issue after Iraq). There appears to be almost total consensus that the commitment is worth continuing. Maybe it is, but it might be nice to debate the question.

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