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Our Afghanistan strategy is causing troops to get killed

Updated: September 18, 2012 6:15AM

Here’s disturbing news from Afghanistan: Of eight coalition combat deaths in a 24-hour period last week, six were Americans killed by Afghan police or Taliban infiltrators into the Afghan security forces. So far this year there have been more coalition deaths by attacks from within the uniformed ranks of our Afghan ally than in all of 2011. Intolerable is the only word to describe the gut-churning pressure this puts on combat forces already burdened with the complexities of an insurgent war. It’s a compelling reason to leave Afghanistan.

NATO officials call such “green-on-blue” attacks “a challenge” but insist that they should not detract from the vast majority of the 330,000 Afghan security forces working with coalition troops to secure the country in the decade-old war against al-Qaida and the Taliban. Yet the attacks are growing: 37 members of the International Security Assistance Force killed in 27 assaults so far this year compared with 35 deaths in 21 attacks in 2011. According to the Stars and Stripes newspaper, “green-on-blue” killings account for more than 10 percent of coalition fatalities this year. The actual number of attacks likely is higher than those numbers indicate because NATO apparently doesn’t report attacks if there are no fatalities. And those numbers don’t include attacks killing Afghan security forces, like a recent one that left 10 Afghan police dead.

Officials have attributed many of the attacks to personal disputes, disgruntled Afghans, the stress of war and, of course, the “insensitivity” of U.S. soldiers to Afghan culture. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged the other day that the Taliban was responsible for an increasing number of the attacks. It’s obvious that more Afghans are concluding that America will soon be gone, with the Obama administration troop pullout scheduled for 2014, and the Taliban will still be around for a long time.

Whatever the source of the increasing attacks, there’s no denying they place a nerve-wracking strain on our troops. They’re already fighting an insurgency war, meaning the enemy doesn’t wear uniforms, he hides among civilians, local populations can be distrustful and even hostile, and our soldiers never know when or from where an attack will materialize. The psychological and morale ramifications of that type of warfare are incalculable. Now add to that attacks from within the ranks of security forces we’re supporting and training, and the stress become intolerable. “Get the rest of those boys out of there,” Gregory Buckley, father of a recently killed Marine, told the New York Daily News.

That heart-felt cry deserves a response from our political leaders.

President Barack Obama should acknowledge the realities of Afghanistan and the problems with his strategy of a telegraphed withdrawal plan. If he and his military advisers don’t have an alternative, an accelerated troop withdrawal is the only answer.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney makes vague statements about Obama’s Afghan policy being too weak. He should spell out what he would constitute as success in Afghanistan and what kind of military manpower and resources he would be prepared to commit.

Most pointedly, Obama and Romney should be able to tell our brave fighting troops what they think can come out of the Afghan enterprise that justifies the sacrifice of one more American life.

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