February 17, 2007 [LINK / comment]

A surge in Afghanistan

The Pentagon announced that the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based in Italy, will be sent to Afghanistan, rather than Iraq as originally planned. This is aimed at heading off an expected spring offensive by Taliban forces, who claim they have 10,000 fighters ready to launch assaults. The Taliban has been wreaking more and more trouble for the past year, making local alliances with poppy farmers and opium traffickers. Whether this insurgency might blossom into a coordinated campaign capable of threatening the Afghani government remains to be seen. Several other U.S. units from Iraq will be redeployed there as well, raising our force level to about 30,000 men and women. That is stretching American conventional military capacity to its limits, while we face simultaneous threats from Iran and -- until this week at least -- North Korea. As explained by Strategy Page, a big part of the problem in Afghanistan is the tacit acquiesence by Pakistan with respect to the refugee camps on its side of the border, from which the Taliban draws most of its strength. Prime Minister Musharraf continues an ambiguous policy toward the Islamic extremists, and the U.S. government doesn't seem to expect much more of him, given the political circumstances in which he finds himself.

Canadian soldiers have been doing much more than their share of the fighting in Afghanistan, while some other NATO members put in little more than a token effort. Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned yesterday that the months ahead would not be easy, but declared that Canada's forces are up to the challenge, in spite of shortages of materiel resulting from past budget cuts. He still faces pressure from the Liberal Party to scale back Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. See the Toronto Globe and Mail. Americans should thank their lucky stars that they have such good, reliable allies in Canada, Australia, and of course Great Britain.