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Building on Battlefied Success

By Marvin Hutchens | February 13, 2006

Our response to the attacks of 9.11 has known many names. Some more apt than others. No matter what we call the war, our victories on its battlefields have presented the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (along with other nations) with an opportunity to build nations worthy of their ideals, hopes and history. For some, the rebuilding is just beginning. For others, the process awaits the next stage of advancing security and opportunity. And for others still, the grasp of religious tyrants has yet to be released.

Newly elected Shi'a parliament members have selected Ibrahim al-Jaafari to lead the new government of Iraq. Prime Minister al-Jaafari received 64 votes from the UIA caucus, one more than current Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. As noted by Omar, at Iraq the Model, the vote reflects that the UIA is not entirely united. However, it is the result of extensive efforts within the UIA to form a government capable managing Iraq's reconstruction and preventing further fractioning among the various sectarian and political groups.

The challenges before Prime Minister al-Jaafari are significant. While Iraqis are increasingly standing against al-Qaeda in Iraq and more Sunni elements previously fighting the US and the Iraqi government are shifting their support to the government, the task of building the central elements of a democratic nation and setting policy that provides for economic and social opportunities to all Iraqis is a daunting one. The body of the parliament that will be charged with determining the appropriate means and ends for Iraq is likely to see further splintering on occasions where the oil industry, federalism and foreign policy are involved. From our far away seats we can only hope that the interests of those elected to this body are truly Iraq's interests rather than their own.

In the first nation to be faced with rebuilding as a result of the war against Islamic terror, Afghanistan, the efforts continue and international support increases.

British Royal Marines have embarked for Afghanistan. These first 150 men from 42 Commando are the earliest element of an expected 3,300 British troops to join the expanding NATO presence in Afghanistan. The resolution and first implementation of that increased NATO presence should be seen as a welcome – if not overdue – extension of European support in the war. It also coincides with an increased effort by Afghanistan's al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters to stir further terror among the Afghan provinces.

Additionally, Afghanistan has recently had its debt cleared by the US. More significantly comes news of Russia's willingness to cancel a reported Soviet era debt of $10 billion, and hopes that Germany ($44 million) and other Paris Club members will follow suit.

On a roadway in the Southern province of Uruzgan, a US Humvee was hit by a roadside IED, and following the explosion insurgents are reported to have opened fire on the other elements of the convoy. The loss of four soldiers in the attack, in the words of Brig. Gen. John Sterling, "increases our resolve to continue their efforts to ultimate success."

Afghanistan continues to work to build a national identity from, and often at odds with, the diverse sectarian and ethnic groups within its borders. For the US and NATO, as well as for its neighbors, that effort should continue with renewed vigor. But the fundamental driver behind this effort should remain the Afghan people in need of a hope lost for decades of tyranny and terror.

In Pakistan, the provinces of Waziristan and North Waziristan has been referred to as an 'Islamic State' under the control of the Taliban. The statement comes from a dubious source – the Taliban. That said, there is likely some truth to the issue as the Pakistan military has been engaged in the region – to one degree or another – since the beginning of the US led war.

As with elsewhere in this great struggle, the enemy wears no uniform and attacks not with an organized military effort focused on tactical and strategic battlefield victories, but instead he usurps the guise of his neighbors and attacks with stealth and maliciousness. The fight against him becomes threefold. One, deny him the space to operate. Two, deny him support, funding and arms. Three, stand against his ideology and those who spread it. In these areas, particularly in areas of Pakistan that were only marginally controlled prior to the war, the challenge for the Pakistani government and military is significant.

It is understandable that President Musharraf would not welcome a large scale US military incursion into his nation. Even in pursuit of a mutual enemy. Likewise, we recognize that his own forces, military and otherwise, are suited more adroitly to the rooting out of those whose only identifying marks are those held in their hearts and in their association with the ideals of radical Islamists. Yet there is a point at which the Pakistan people must expect their President to either prosecute the war with a firmer hand or expect that his own nation runs the risk of being seen as harboring terrorist.

In the video which announced the 'Islamic State', footage of large bases of operations for Taliban supporters are shown. The footage also includes an attack on a US base in Afghanistan. Clearly, if authentic, the makers of this video are more brazen and confident of their control of the region than can be allowed. That control must be wrested from them. To those ends, the means of US forces in Afghanistan should be made available – and moreover, the Pakistani government should assure its people that their interest and security are in Islamabad and Musharraf, not in the repression of the Taliban redux.

Progress in the war has largely been measured by our military victories against the lesser military capabilities of our enemies. These impressive and honor-worthy efforts will continue for some time. Yet this is also a time for the broadening of our interests to the construction of an Iraqi nation, the strengthening of the Afghan nation and the freeing of Pakistan's troubled provinces. As we broaden our view from afar, Muslim men and women around the world are sure to find greater cause for supporting an end to terror in Islam's name.

1 Comment

Some of these societies will have to leave the worst habits of their culture behind before they'll find true peace and success.

The tribal system is wonderful for building a sense of community, and engendering a sense of duty and place. But, it also makes it harder to build a sense of national unity, and instilling a willingness to bend to ideals, such as the rule of law.