Surging Ahead in Afghanistan
They know that the peace of the terrified is no peace at all.
On August 19, 2008, my friend was murdered. Taliban gunmen assassinated Mohammed Ayoob on his doorstep, in a village along the Kunduz River, in the Kunduz Province of Northern Afghanistan. Ayoob, only 20 years old, served as the supply sergeant for an Afghan Police unit in the district of Chahar Darreh where he lived.
Not the toughest soldier, Ayoob sometimes seemed to fear his own shadow. His commanders assigned him to the supply section. The Taliban noted his gentler nature and targeted him. In the end, he was tougher than he realized. Courageous in the face of death, when three terrorists ambushed him with AK-47 assault rifles, he drew his sidearm and fired a single round at his killers before falling, the pistol smoking in his hand.
My friend's death exemplifies the dynamics of the violent struggle for Afghanistan. A small, fringe minority resorts to terror to intimidate the majority. Wherever Afghan and U.S. Forces fail to secure the populace, the Taliban terrorizes the people into obedience. Since I left Afghanistan last fall, the Kunduz Province has slipped further into the Taliban’s grasp. Ayoob's murder was merely a single act in their long campaign.
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, fear and violence reigned. The rule of the Mullahs confined women and girls to their homes. Taliban officials destroyed schools. The Taliban stoned adulterers. They killed apostates who converted to Christianity and then destroyed the iconic Bamiyan Buddha statues. Afghans, with America’s help, overthrew their oppressive regime.
As an American soldier, I was proud to call Ayoob my friend, but language and culture made understanding difficult. I never knew whether he was more concerned with defeating the insurgents than with holding a paying job. I suspected the latter. Ayoob, and his family, lived in a state of poverty. Like most Afghans they scraped by as best they could from year to year.
Whether he fought for patriotism or money, Ayoob chose to stand up to the Taliban. Despite the risks involved, Sgt. Ayoob accepted a job that endangered his life. He demonstrated personal courage and a rejection of the Taliban. Soon after he died, I realized his family must have agreed with him.
Muslims must be buried within 24 hours of death. The day after Ayoob died, my team continued our anti-Taliban efforts in the district. On the way back to our base we passed Ayoob's funeral. In a nation where few people have cars, I saw dozens of cars, packed with hundreds of friends and relatives at the hilltop cemetery where they laid Ayoob to rest. Attendance at Ayoob's funeral represented a public rejection of the Taliban.
Ayoob's friends and family are hardly unique in their rejection of the Taliban. Last week, Afghan presidential elections were held for the second time this decade. While insurgents intimidated millions of Afghans into staying home, millions more risked heir lives to vote.
Today, in the United States, liberal politicians quote recent poles saying that a majority of Americans reflect the belief that Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting for. The left works pro-actively to prevent a possible troop surge.
Next week General Stanley McChrystal is scheduled to report his assessment of Afghanistan to President Obama. McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is widely expected to ask the President for a significant increase in U.S. ground troops. President Obama campaigned for office on the claim that Iraq had distracted us from fighting the "right war" in Afghanistan.
McChrystal surely envisions the "Iraq surge" as a model for the way forward in Afghanistan. The surge used a massive infusion of U.S. troops combined with battle-tested counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures to secure the population of Iraq. The surge enabled the legitimate government to succeed on its own in the future.
Our president, who owes his political career to the far left, is now caught between his core and his campaign. He promoted the "right war" on the campaign trail to capture the middle. Now, he can expect serious pressure from his allies in Pelosi’s Democratic Congress to resist an "Afghan surge."
Americans may be weary of the war after eight years. Surely though, we are not more weary than the Afghans; they have known only war and terror for decades. The difference is that millions of Afghans know this war is worth fighting.
Like the loved ones of Mohammed Ayoob, they clearly want to end the violence. Their communities have been torn apart by decades of violence, but they will not surrender to terror to achieve peace. They know that the peace of the terrified is no peace at all.
Here at home, Americans are bombarded by the objections of the political left and spoon-fed the dubious opinions of mainstream media pundits, but hopefully we will remember our own recent past. Eight years ago the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to plan and train in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda used that sanctuary to attack America here at home.
Today liberals are willing to allow that same Taliban to reclaim rule over Afghanistan. Today when Pakistan is much weaker and more susceptible to the Taliban in its own borders, this would spell disaster; disaster for Afghans, and disaster for America. Our enemies, safe in their sanctuary, will plot once again to export their violence to our shores.
John Byrnes is a member of Veterans for Freedom. As a staff sergeant in the National Guard he spent most of 2008 in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, where he advised an Afghan National Police company in counter-insurgency.