In Afghanistan, the incidence of attacks on towns, villages and NATO-Afghan forces has never been higher. Pakistani troops have been pulled out of border provinces, giving the resurgent Taliban a privileged sanctuary. The IEDs our troops face are more powerful and sophisticated. A suicide bomb attack has been mounted on the U.S. embassy.
Germany, Turkey, Spain and Italy are refusing a U.S.-NATO request for 2,500 more troops. The French, too, are balking. Yet Afghanistan is the decisive test of the post-Cold War NATO alliance.
While we have not lost the war, we have not won it. And victory in Afghanistan will require more American boots on the ground. Meanwhile, reconstruction is behind schedule, funds have not been forthcoming, poppy production is exploding, drug lords are aiding the Taliban and Afghans are losing confidence in a U.S.-Kharzi victory.
As for Iraq, the transfer of U.S forces to Baghdad appears to have stemmed the horrible body count of Iraqis, which was running at over 100 a day. But Anbar has apparently reverted, the Kurds are taking down the Iraqi flag and putting up the flag of an independent Kurdistan, and Shia militants are dividing over whether to hold the nation together, or let it break apart.
While U.S. casualties have diminished as Shia and Sunni dead soar in the sectarian terror, 60 percent of all Americans now believe Iraq was a mistake and want U.S. withdrawals. Considering that America has lost fewer men in Iraq than in the Filipino insurrection of 1899-1903, which some almanacs do not even list as an American war, this tells us something about our times, our leaders, our beliefs and ourselves.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, America appears to have three options. Put in more U.S. troops and go all-out for the victory of which President Bush speaks. Stay the course, which holds no promise of victory or of any early end to either war. Begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and accept the consequences, which could well be what the president warns -- calamitous.
The decision is up to Bush and the new Congress, but also to us. No matter which decision we make, Americans are headed for a long, dark night of recriminations not unlike the Truman-McCarthy era.