That dissent is wholly justified given the realities on the ground. The Taliban, by one account, has a permanent presence in 72% of the country and is closing in on the capital, Kabul. Unlike Iraq, the militant groups here have a connection to the local tribal communities - they are not solely foreign fighters imposing their will - and they are determined not to make the same mistakes as Al Qaeda in Iraq, even loosening its doctrinaire extremism to accommodate the locals and multiple insurgent groups. The plan floated to "restart the surge" by enlisting tribal groups to fight the Taliban won't work with coalition forces targeting them at the same time:
The response to additional troops in the region will clearly be additional violence. This is particularly the case if civilian casualties continue, increasing anger among the local population. The US plan appears to be to focus their troops in the Kabul region, which is incredibly ominous, suggesting that the countryside is being given up for the time being. And the supply lines connecting the region have been breached. [my ems]
So what; we're gonna build an 'enclave of democracy' in Kabul? A centralized target on which attacks from the outside can be directed? A place where none can leave the city limits without being targeted?
What we are seeing is there is no real plan for Afghanistan. Fortifying Kabul (an obvious attempt to protect the Karzai government) will merely create an island in a sea of anarchy. We have painted ourselves into a corner.
We are resorting to a strategy used 500 years ago, a 'siege mentality' where the defenders hope their fortifications withstand bombardment from without until the enemy runs out of supplies or gets tired of the fight. This is not the way to 'win' a war.
Like the firebases and airfields in Vietnam Gord showed us the other day, our troops (and the civilians in Kabul) will come under constant fire, the aircraft and runway in particular, for we really have no other way to resupply. Think Berlin Airlift but with anti-air going up at the transports and mortar fire coming down on the runway. It'll be a mess.
Afghanistan is a place best left alone; ask the British and the Russians. We cannot occupy it (the terrain making it logistically impossible), we cannot democratize it (the tribal culture will not support a centralized government), and we cannot buy their cooperation (there isn't enough money in the U.S. Treasury to guarantee their loyalty to us). And then there is the complication of Pakistan (namely the tribal areas of Waziristan), whose government has neither the stomach or the army to clean up the 'safe haven' for Afghani militants on their side of the border and cannot allow the U.S. to do it and survive politically.
Our occupation of Afghanistan (if history is any guide) will end about as well as the British and Soviet versions did. We will leave (when the costs become too high), eventually, after declaring victory, and Afghanistan will return to being the way it always was. It's time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan as well, not send more, and promise them that the next time some idiot in a cave decides to attack the United States, the nation of Afghanistan will be nothing more than a smoking hole in the ground. When dealing with a population still living in the 8th Century, you cannot use a 21st Century strategy. In Afghanistan there are two constants; life and death. Allow them the first and promise them the last if they misbehave. Any other alternative is nothing more than a waste of lives and money.