WASHINGTON -- Eight years ago this week, just 25 days after the vicious attacks of 9/11, the U.S. struck back at the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Thirty-three days later, U.S.-supported Northern Alliance troops were in Kabul, and the remnants of al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts were in retreat to Kandahar and mountain redoubts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. All of this was preceded by intense diplomacy and a virtually nonstop publicly aired series of presidential announcements, news conferences, speeches, debates and discussions at the White House, from the badly damaged Pentagon, in congressional hearings -- even at the United Nations. In December, three months after the U.S. was attacked, public approval for Operation Enduring Freedom was nearly 90 percent. Today fewer than half of Americans support continued U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. The difference is leadership.
The Obama administration is now in its ninth month of a self-inflicted quandary over what to do about Afghanistan. Human pregnancy and giving birth takes less time and is -- at least according to my wife, the mother of four -- less painful.
On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised a new era of "openness and transparency" in Washington. The government, he explained, "should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."
Meetings would be open; voices would be heard; the public would be fully informed about the actions of government, we were told. To this end, Mr. Obama instructed: "Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve."
However, non-disclosure has become the order of the day when it comes to the administration's policy on Afghanistan, and public confidence in Operation Enduring Freedom has plummeted. The administration's procrastination, vacillation and secrecy about "the options in Afghanistan" also have eroded international support -- once considered an essential component for waging a successful campaign.
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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