First, we're not at war against the Taliban or al-Qaida or Jemaah Islamiyah or Hamas or Hezbollah or any other group, no matter what its trade name is. Our fight is against radical Islam, which declared an unprovoked war against us -- just like the ideological struggle we waged against fascism and communism. The "central front" of this war may be on the Indo-Pakistani border today, but it could be in Somalia next month. It began in the 1980s, when Islamic radicals began blowing themselves up to kill Europeans, pro-Western Muslims, Israelis and Americans. We just didn't fight back until nearly 3,000 of us were killed by Islamic radicals Sept. 11, 2001.
From October 2001 until March 2003, Afghanistan was "the central front." From then until late 2007, the battle was waged primarily in Iraq. The goal -- no matter how poorly articulated -- was to prevent radical Islamists from using Mesopotamia as a haven for acquiring weapons of mass destruction and to fight them "over there" instead of here. It took longer and was more expensive in lives and treasure than anyone wanted, but it worked.
Today the campaign against radical Islam in Iraq is won. In countless battles, young Americans in flak jackets and helmets defeated often-suicidal enemies, built schools and clinics, established civil order, and trained and equipped a new ally in a part of the world where we need friends. Americans became the protectors of Muslim women and assured their right to participate fully in the economic, social and political life of a country. That's a major victory in the fight against radical Islam. Let's hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the new commander in chief will acknowledge his predecessor's resolve and thank the soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines who achieved it.
Instead of expressing "interest" in what happens in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, the new administration needs to realize that failure is not an option. Despite significant cultural and tribal differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, they are equally "winnable" if we do the right things:
--Use the presidential bully pulpit to remind Afghanistan's neighbors 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 to generate jobs, reduce casualties from IEDs and mines, and show the Afghan people that their government cares about them.
--Stop corruption and 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.
--Shut down the NATO-ISAF command structure in Kabul. "Allied" forces that can't or won't fight should be thanked and sent home. Then replicate the effective and successful counterinsurgency strategy Gen. David Petraeus devised for Iraq.
And finally, a solution for relocating the violent enemy combatants in "Gitmo": Pick up the detainees, the guards and support personnel in Cuba, and bring them to the brand-new, as-yet-unoccupied 1,600-bed supermax Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. They can keep Gov. Blagojevich company.
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.