During the presidential debates and speeches, Afghanistan was discussed, but the issue of whether or not the US presence was either helping or exacerbating the conflict was not. Obama and McCain both were in agreement that the US should bring more troops to the nation, not less, in the belief that the situation needed more boots on the ground to police the nation and keep the Taliban in check. But are the current contingent of Western forces doing more to defeat the Taliban/Al Qaeda or to incite them to keep fighting on?
International Relations Professor Stephen Walt and Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter debate this issue. Here is the five minute video. To simply put their arguments, Slaughter is against leaving Afghanistan,asserting that it would give the Taliban/Al Qaeda a ‘major victory,’ while Walt is for withdrawal, arguing that our troop presence is only making the situation worse in what is looking like an ‘endless war.’ Walt persuasively demonstrates that the region of Afghanistan is not all that significant to US interests, being so far away and having such a small economy. This is no surprise as he is a leader of the IR realist school.
What Walt seems to be too quickly dismissing is the ideological nature and mission of many of the US's enemies in the region and their proven ability to hurt US interests throughout the world. In fact, the CIA just came out with a report concluding that Al Qaeda was increasing its reach around the globe, specifically in Africa.
This debate between Slaughter and Walt is short and doesn't not cover a multitude of issues as deeply as they deserve, but its an important start nonetheless. I have discussed this issue numerous times, but still feel the mainstream media is not covering it enough. I have also let it be known that I myself feel that the US/NATO effort in Afghanistan is worth the time, life, and treasure, but that we need to continually evaluate our strategy and build, build, build up the Afghan government, police, and military. But whatever my beliefs, it is vital that all of us have a greater understanding of the incredibly harsh conflict that we are in and who it is we are fighting for and against.