December 4th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Letters to the President: #684 'The continuing puzzle of Afghanistan'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama turned up in Afghanistan to talk to our troops and generally offer some encouragement.

Dear Mr. President,

Look at you, suddenly popping up in Afghanistan with the cool bomber jacket, talking up our troops! Good for you. Whether a war is going well or poorly, I think it is important for the commander-in-chief to show up from time to time. If nothing else, it lets the folks in the fight know that they have not been forgotten by the person at the top.

That said I really can’t tell anymore if things are heading the right way over there. I know that you’ve said we’re making progress, and I have so much faith in the military people of our country, that I want to believe it. But then I read reports that the Afghan government remains an untrustworthy shambles; that their troops are not now, nor will they be anytime soon, ready to take over protection of their own country, and yadda yadda yadda…it just doesn’t look good.

Here is the key problem, I think: Most Americans are not really sure what we are fighting for anymore. I know I’ve brought this up before, but it still seems true. Are we after al Qaeda? Are we trying to keep the Taliban on the run so they won’t take over again? Are we seeking a true, stable, lasting democracy?

And here is the secondary problem: No matter which one of those you pick, I still have a hard time figuring out how and when we will know we have accomplished our goal.

The al Qaeda kids move around, hopping between Afghanistan and Pakistan like mountain goats. The Taliban seems to have an endless supply of nutty young men who are ready to sign up; and oh, btw, they’ve made it clear many times that they suspect they can just wait us out. And the idea that Afghanistan will become a rock-solid bastion of one man-one vote? Not sure I can see that anytime soon, if ever.

You know that I always try to be encouraging, and I think we are often too impatient as a culture. Accomplishing big things can take a lot of time, and it would be a shame to throw away all the lives, effort, money, and thought that have gone into Afghanistan.

But I think now that you’ve gone to talk with the troops, you might need to talk with the rest of us again, and explain once more what we are doing there these days, and how we will know if we are making progress.

Just a thought. May God bless our troops. Safe travels. More tomorrow.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Latham Rice

    Another Canadian comments:

    Read US fights to open a school in the Taliban area, Published December 04, 2010 by the Associated Press and you will see reason for sticking it out! But, is the price too high? Will NATO stay long enough that the local people can be truly free to live their own lives as they want? Can the Afgan government be reformed? Can the Western world afford the cost? Will the politicians risk their careers for the cause? etc???

    Who knows, I felt so committed to saving the Afgan people, but, I for, one am now losing hope. Unfortunately, the fox still controls the hen house and no one seems willing to force change.

    December 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  2. Ronnie

    Yes...shades of Vietnam "What are we fighting for..." I don't remember the rest of the anti-war lyrics..but it's time to resurrect them.

    December 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm |