The New York Times ran an article on Afghanistan recently (Oct. 3, 2006) along with a map of the regions in the country with the status of the resistance. The article pointed out the southern and eastern provinces are stronghold of the Taliban, especially along the border with Pakistan. The jest was that while the U.N. may be winning the battles, mostly due to the use of technology to fight in adverse conditions and at night, we losing the war.

But the article points out rightfully, that the Taliban aren't winning either, and most of all the people are losing the most. They're the ones caught in the middle of the battles, often the victum of one or both sides, usually damaging or destroying homes, fields, and other property, and lives. It goes on to show how the Taliban and other tribes, who fought the Russians for nearly ten years, and despite losing heavily at times in battles with the U.N. troops, always seem to come back fiesty and tricky as ever.

I've also heard testimonies and other articles about Afghanistan and Pakistan, since both are linked through the border and the people. The jest of these are that Afghanistan is in a state of dynamic equilibrium, where we're fighting a force in the Taliban and tribes to a near standstill. And since the Taliban is entrenched in the government, elected by the people, along with Tribal leaders with a history of brutality and anti-government battles, the standstill won't change.

In addition, I've read we're not winning the hearts and minds, and we're not doing much about the economic status of the people. We demand they stop growning heroin, we can't provide them anything to replace it that pays as much. In short, we've created near-permanent situation where you can't leave and staying isn't helping much. The government is proped up by our presence, and couldn't and wouldn't survive on its own if we left, and the Taliban would come back.

So, are there solutions? They seem to answer a complex yes, meaning, yes with lots of conditions and reservations. A lot depends on Pakistan, the longevity of the U.N. presence, and the people themselves. They barely survive and any outside force will easily overwhelm them. It's a really big I don't know, and all we seem to be able to do is slog on, and hope for the best.

But when do you decide it's not working? And what are the alternatives? Or really, do we know much at all. As Father Mulcahy said in MASH, "When you're in the middle of a mess, the best choice is keep going."

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