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Oliver North
Oliver North
2 May 2013
Being Presidential

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A Decade at War


WASHINGTON — Ten years ago this week, America went to war in Afghanistan. At 1 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 7, 2001, President George W. Bush told the world, "On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al-Qaida terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan." At the conclusion of his seven-minute broadcast from the White House Treaty Room, he pledged: "The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail." Now, a decade later, his successor will determine whether that pledge is kept.

The fight that began just 26 days after the 9/11 terror attacks started with nearly simultaneous raids on Taliban air defenses, command, control and communications nodes, and al-Qaida bases by sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, B-1 and B-52 bombers from Diego Garcia, and U.S. Navy and Marine aircraft operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea. B-2 Spirit stealth bombers conducted scores of 14,000-mile-round-trip missions from their bases in Missouri, dropping precision-guided munitions on Taliban and al-Qaida positions. From bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the CIA's Special Activities Division and U.S. special operations personnel entered Afghanistan to support Northern Alliance troops intent on unseating the Taliban. On Nov. 12, they liberated Kabul.

Thirteen days later, SAD officer Johnny "Mike" Spann — a former U.S. Marine captain — became the first American to die at the hands of the enemy in Afghanistan. He was shot and killed during an uprising at a Taliban detention center near Mazar-e-Sharif after interrogating an American jihadist, named John Walker Lindh. Since then, more than 1,700 Americans have been killed in action or died of wounds inflicted in Afghanistan. Other Americans, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Adam Gadahn, became radical Islamists and joined the jihad. And now, commander in chief Barack Obama — who once called Afghanistan "the necessary war" — simply wants to abandon the fight and get out. Apparently, most of our countrymen agree.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 58 percent of Americans believe we should not be fighting in the shadows of the Hindu Kush. This week, the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that only 50 percent of veterans who have served in the military since the attacks of 9/11 believe the war in Afghanistan has been worth the cost in lives and treasure. The Obama administration, ever sensitive to public opinion, is wedded to the notion that "unmanned drones" (correctly named, remotely piloted aircraft) are sufficient to prevent a 9/11-like attack.

The president insists that all 33,000 American "surge" troops must be withdrawn by next summer and that U.S.-NATO combat operations will cease in 2014.

Office seekers, incumbents and pundits across the political spectrum claim that the demise of Osama bin Laden means we can "bring the boys home." That's a great slogan for politicians who weren't in office when the fight started and those who opposed U.S. involvement from the beginning, but it's never been a formula for victory in a war.

Despite anti-military bias in the mainstream media, poll-driven political rhetoric and pseudo-intellectual drivel about America's "failure" at "nation building," the war in Afghanistan is being won. The metrics for such an assessment are widely ignored by opponents of American exceptionalism. But here are some key indicators:

When U.S. (and British) forces arrived in Afghanistan 10 years ago, the national illiteracy rate was 75 percent, and fewer than 1 million boys — and no girls — were enrolled in schools that taught anything more than Islamic religious studies. Today there are more than 6 million children in school — a third of them girls.

Afghan national security forces were nonexistent a decade ago. Tribal and regional warlords had private armies, and the Afghan National Police was hopelessly corrupt. Fewer than 10 percent of the soldiers and cops could read or write. Thanks to the U.S.-led NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, there are now 172,000 well-trained and -equipped troops in the Afghan army and 135,000 police officers, and all new recruits are being taught to read and write.

Afghan troops and police are now responsible for security in nearly 30 percent of the country. Though Taliban-affiliated terrorists still occasionally launch spectacular suicide strikes from sanctuaries in Pakistan, overall enemy-initiated attacks against U.S. and NATO troops are down 20 percent from a year ago.

As U.S. and NATO troops pull out of the fight, Pakistan's support for the Taliban insurgency remains the primary threat to a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan. That's why Afghan President Hamid Karzai now insists that any future "peace talks" must include representatives from Islamabad. This week, Karzai went to New Delhi and closed a deal for India to increase security assistance to the Afghan national security forces when the Americans withdraw.

The Karzai overture to New Delhi is seen as "provocative" at the White House. It's actually a vote of "no confidence" in our commander in chief and his vacillating, ambivalent commitment to a stable, secure and economically viable Afghanistan. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it this week, Obama has "failed the leadership test."

Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



2 Comments | Post Comment
Mr. North,
Your history fails to include the indefensible stupidity of the Bush administration in its diversion of our resources from the war in Afghanistan to an illegal war against an enemy that did not attack us. How much better would our situation in Afghanistan be if Bush had not dropped the ball? But, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you do not make decisions based on the history you wished you had; You make them based on where you are at. How important is this war to you Mr. North? How much are you willing to IMMEDIATELY raise taxes to pay for it? How many more decades should we stay? Of course, while we are bankrupting ourselves playing world's cop, China continues to march toward global economic dominance.
This is now your third column since the end of "Don't ask, don't tell" yet still not a word on the sky in Ollie land. Has it fallen? Or has the most professional military in the world simply made the change to the 21st century? Will you have the courage (personal integrity?) to admit that your dire predictions were simply political theater?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Mark
Thu Oct 6, 2011 5:07 PM
I have great respect for Mr North. He's a man who has been there, done that, got the battle ribbons. One thing I often see is that people comment when they have no idea what the intelligence or armed forces are doing. A person can go to the library and read old books about strategies and learn. A person can realize that many things talked about on Tv are not valid. When the young soldiers get hurt, it is bad. However, soldiers talk about the fact that they earn good pay and benefits, they earn great respect, and they contribute and do good. At the same time, young people in our cities are shot every day with no valor or meaning. It would be beneficial to have a national news report daily about the number of young people killed each day on the streets of United States cities. The report might say, yesterday, twenty young people were shot and killed in the United States and three were killed in Afghanistan.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mike Hayne
Sat Oct 8, 2011 9:36 AM
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