--The U.N.-led "economic reconstruction" of Afghanistan is a miserable failure. The number of displaced refugees, life expectancy, live birth rate, illiteracy, childhood disease, malnutrition and unemployment all are getting worse instead of better because of incompetence, corruption and lack of coordination among "international donors." The Taliban insurgency thrives on ignorance and misery. As one U.S. officer put it, "We're feeding the beast."
--There is no coherent command-and-control structure or common set of operating procedures among U.S. forces, the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police or the 25 other nations in NATO's International Security Assistance Force, nearly all of which have different rules of engagement or national caveats on how they will be employed. Though some U.S. units, such as the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 101st Airborne Division, have integral air support, others have to rely on the ISAF. As a result, wounded Americans have waited hours for casualty evacuation, and sometimes it never comes.
Now the good news. Though there are significant cultural and tribal differences between Afghanistan and Iraq -- the military/security situation in Afghanistan is similar to what it was in Mesopotamia 2 1/2 years ago -- they are equally "winnable" if we do the right things. Some repairs will take time, but these are needed urgently:
--Inform both the Pakistani and Iranian governments that insurgent cross-border operations will not be tolerated and that if Taliban/terror bases on their territories are not closed, they will be attacked.
--Commence building paved roads throughout all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, not just in urban areas. Such projects will generate tens of thousands of jobs, create lasting infrastructure, reduce casualties from IEDs and mines, and show the Afghan people that their government cares about them.
--Stop illicit drug production from the top down, not the bottom up. Arrest and prosecute the kingpins, and then go for eradication and crop replacement. It worked in Colombia, and it can work in Afghanistan.
--Fix the unity of command problem immediately. The NATO-ISAF command structure should be shut down. "Allied" forces that can't or won't fight should be thanked and sent home. More U.S. troops are needed desperately in Afghanistan, but unless Gen. Petraeus is given clear lines of authority to do what has to be done, the Afghan army and police never will get the equipment and training they need. He did it in Iraq. Now he needs to do it in Afghanistan.
The Afghan people don't want to be ruled by Islamic radicals. Afghan soldiers -- properly trained, equipped, led and supported -- are brave and fight well, but they can't win unless these problems are fixed. Neither they nor the young Americans serving here should have to wait for a new administration in Washington to make the necessary repairs.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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