February 9th, 2009
01:01 PM ET

War in Afghanistan "much tougher than Iraq"?


A top diplomat recently said the war in Afghanistan will be a "long, difficult struggle." A US military raid recently destroyed 270 homes and displaced hundreds of families. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Just in case President Obama doesn't have enough worries at home with the economy, one of his top diplomats is now warning that the war in Afghanistan will be "much tougher than Iraq."

Richard Holbrooke - the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan - insists that there's no "magic formula" and that it will be a "long, difficult struggle." Holbrooke knows a thing or two about dealing with conflict, he's got a long resume that includes negotiating an end to the war in Bosnia.

The president has made it clear that Afghanistan will be a top priority and his administration is deciding whether to send another 30,000 troops there, which would almost double the current troop strength.

Speaking at the same meeting as Holbrooke, General David Petraeus said there's been nothing easy about Afghanistan. He described the country's many needs - ranging from ground troops to intelligence, surveillance, special ops, you name it. There are high expectations that Petraeus can mirror the progress he made in Iraq.

The U.S. is also calling on the international community to step up its role in the war-torn nation.

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledges security problems - he says they've had success in areas like roads and health care. Mr. Karzai insists his country is not a "narco state" or "failed state." It's probably worth noting that he's up for re-election this summer.

Meanwhile, a new poll of the Afghan people shows support for Mr. Karzai's government, the U.S. and NATO plummeting - so President Obama has his work cut out for him.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when one top diplomat says the war in Afghanistan will be "much tougher than Iraq"?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Shirley from Virginia writes:
No question about it, Jack, Afghanistan will be much tougher than Iraq. I believe that if we had kept our eye on the ball and not let the GOP take us off to Iraq, after eight years it would have been much easier for President Obama to go in and finish the job. Given the terrain and the non-cooperative government, we have a fight on our hands but at least it is the right fight.

Bruce from St. Paul, Minnesota writes:
Afghanistan could make Vietnam seem like a rousing success story in comparison. The Russians rumbled into Afghanistan in tanks, and crept out with their tail between their legs. The only real problems will be the terrain, the climate, the culture, the poverty, the drug trade, Pakistan, and the cost. It may be the "right" war, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Michelle from Nevada writes:
It is time to pull out of both wars and negotiate diplomatically with the powers that be in the region. There are plenty of people in that area who know far better than we do how to achieve workable solutions. No one ever wins an occupation. Let's bring our citizens home.

James from New Jersey writes:
These same "top diplomats" said only a few short years ago that Iraq was an unwinnable quagmire. I'm not saying Baghdad is as safe as Greenwich Connecticut, but the surge has had success. Let's try it in Afghanistan before we decide to abandon all our goals in the region. We owe the Afghanis that much at least.

Robert writes:
Iraq bent our military; Afghanistan may break it. What should a third- or fourth-tour Iraq-war soldier think when he's sent to a much-different landlocked Muslim country, where supply routes are easily attacked and tribal allegiances count for more than nationalism, and our goal is even more amorphous than the one we went into Iraq with?

Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. arlene in iowa

    Is this a surprise to anyone..? I mean, really..

    February 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  2. JR in Norfolk VA

    Either it means he's managing expections for the Obama Administration, which has yet to show that it knows what it's doing, or he's justifying pulling out of Iraq to do the "harder" mission. What will happen is that we will have lost all the gains we have made in Iraq and mismanage the situation in Afghanistan, thanks to our new Bungler-in-Chief.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  3. Mark, OKC, OK

    Couldn't we just have looked at what happened to the Soviets in Afghanastan and learned from that? OOPS, that would have been the easy way to do it, sorry.

    Mark in OKC, OK

    February 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  4. Terry from North Carolina

    Iraq has been our focus and unfortunately Afghanistan has been the step child and has not gotten the attention it so desperate;y needs. We will continue to suffer in Afghanistan until we can put the men and equipment in country to get control of the chaos that is presently going on there. If it means pulling out of Iraq completely so be it.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  5. Jackie in Dallas

    Yes, the Afghani war is much tougher than Iraq. The terrain is horrible, the weather is horrible, and the opposing warlords of the many groups complicate the matter even further. We've had to rely on our own weapons of impersonal distruction, rather than on human intelligence and manpower for too long.

    If we had continued with our focus on Afghanistan, we probably could have made much more progress, found Ben Laden, and brought to justice a lot more of al Qaida. But we lost the momentum, and it is going to be difficult to get it back.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  6. Greg in Cabot Arkansas

    I spent over a year in Afghanistan (04-05) as a civilian contractor and I think Afghanistan…not Iraq… should have been our focus all along. It has the opportunity to be the JEWEL of the Middle East and an American success story when it comes to the spread of democracy in that region. The Afghani people need and want us there to help rid themselves of the Taliban and Al Qaeda once and for all and to help control the drug lords.
    But sending more troops without redefining their mission won’t work. Bombs, gunships and missiles increase the chance of collateral damage and accidently kill civilians since the bad guys don’t wear signs that identify their thought process or hang out in isolated villages. Our troops need to be on the ground and embedded with the local militias and the Afghanistan Army AND have a respect for their cultural differences. Only when WE display an attitude that we are there to help, not run their show will the mission succeed.
    I proudly worked along side the Afghani people and found that they are a fine people that have been on tough times far too long.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  7. Ray in Nashville


    It means we aren't being lied to by this administration. Refreshing, isn't it?

    February 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Afghanistan is where our focus should have been all along, not in Iraq. Because we shifted our focus and resources before the job was done, we now face a huge challenge to "right the ship" in Afghanistan. Whether it will be "tougher" than Iraq remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it will be tough.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  9. Don from Portland, Oregon

    It means there isn't a politician in either party willing to tell the American people the truth – that both wars will turn out to be a terrible waste of lives and resources. The reason the Taliban came to power in the first place is because Afghanistan is ungovernable and could only be controlled by the most brutal and ruthless Afghanis. And the lull in violence in Iraq is a mirage. Unless we are willing to stay in Iraq for at least a generation, and probably longer, it will turn into a blood bath as soon as there are insufficient numbers of American troops there to stop the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds from slaughtering each other. The only place more depressing than Afghanistan and Iraq is Pakistan. Not only do they have nukes, they just released the man who sold Iran, North Korea, and Libya plans to build there own.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    Afghanistan has always been an extremely difficult place to wage war in. The terrain is very mountainous and dry, much more so than any where else the U.S. has ever fought. I can think of three times that European style armies have gone in there and have lost. The British sent an army in in the late 1840's and only a handful made it our alive. They tried again late in the nineteenth century with similar results. We all remember what happened to the Soviets in the late twentieth century. It is essential to get to know and work with the various tribes who inhabit the country otherwise there is no chance of success for any outside military force which needs to fight in that country.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Tom Ft Lauderdale


    They don't have oil, I say cut and run if they get out of line cut and run again. That 's how George Washington won the first war.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  12. Bizz, Quarryville, Pennsylvania

    Jack, Afghanistan was called the Soviet Union's Vietnam. If we're not careful we will be calling it our second Vietnam or third Vietnam if you're counting Iraq. This is not a nation that you can turn into a democracy so we shouldn't even try. We should leave the people know that all we want to do is to destroy and stop Al Qaida from using Afghanistan as a country to operate in. When we complete that mission we will leave.

    February 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Ron San Diego

    Hi Jack:

    The environment and geography of the region will make it much more difficult. Not to mention the endless mile of tunnels in those mountains.

    In addition, gorilla warfare is always much more difficult.

    Ron San Diego

    February 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm |


    February 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  15. Russ in PA

    It means that everyone needs to prepare for Obama's Vietnam. Assuming he thinks that he can "rebuild" such a country, we'll continue to hemorrhage money in a fruitless pursuit, until people come to their senses, and get the heck out of there. The US has no money to afford such a lost cause.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  16. Casey | Sebastopol, CA

    Jack, it means that until we focus our attention on solving the REAL problems that allow terrorists to flourish in this world – poverty, lack of education and the environment – there will ALWAYS be an Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza or Somalia or Darfur... well, the list goes on.

    It's time to stop forcing ideology on the rest of the globe and address the true problems of this overcrowded world.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  17. Tom, Avon, Me., The Heart of Democracy

    I think we can ameliorate the poverty and violence in Afghanistan only through Islamic states like Jordan and Syria, but that it will take many more centuries to do so

    February 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  18. Jane (Minnesota)

    That diplomat maybe has studied past history. Russia failed in a long-drawn out war in Afghanistan & nearly wrecked their economy. Why does the US thik they can do it nearly alone? It's a place that won't get fixed unless the rest of the world together is involved in fixing it.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  19. karen-phoenix

    Not the "war" part but the winning of "hearts and minds" which is the way to go!!!

    February 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  20. Conor in Chicago

    It means he should remember the mantra: Afghanistan is where empires go to die.

    Doubling down there is a really bad idea. It's like screaming out loud, "this is a really bad situation. Hurry! Let's make it worse!"

    No more American blood to fight the Islamic Reformation. They hit us, we hit back, let's leave it at that.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  21. sean brizendine

    jack afghanistan is the forgotten war and we need to focus on our strategy there and prevent the taliban from resurging and make a more serious attempt in squashing opium production and most of all finding bin-laden.
    "sean in santa rosa"

    February 9, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  22. JD, NC

    It sounds more realistic than claiming it will be a "cake-walk" or that "we will be greeted as liberators".

    February 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  23. bob, oshawa, ontario

    Jack, it means in" diplomese" that no victory is guaranteed. Afghanistan will be the bottomless pit into which the Obama government will pour money into and thus making it virtually impossible for the U.S. to deal effectively with its current economic crisis. Obama should negotiate with the Taliban because no military victory can succeed. If he doesn't, he will be fighting wars on three fronts, in Iraq, which has not gone away, in Afghanistan and in the U.S. with the Republican politicians who are desperately trying to undermine efforts to ease the troubled economy in order to make Obama's actions look incompetent. Americans should be outraged at them for not putting the country's interests ahead of their own sadistic behavior.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  24. Nuwan

    That means, America has just realized something that Russians learned over 2 decades ago.

    – Nuwan from Houston, TX

    February 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  25. Ralph, Corpus Christi

    It means we won't see "mission accomplished" any time soon.
    Ralph- Corpus Christi, Texas

    February 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  26. Doug - Dallas, TX

    All one has to do is look at the Russian effort to conquer Afghanistan se understand the comment. There the tribal lords align themselves with whoever is popular at the moment. Afghanistan has never been conquered and the US won't be the first ones to do it. The question is "do we have the resolve to achieve what's necessary" ie the destruction of the Taliban?

    February 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  27. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    What does it mean when one top diplomat says the war in Afghanistan will be “much tougher than Iraq”?

    It means he has to go back and find another answer with the current government and neighbors.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  28. Betty, San Diego, Ca.

    It means that at least one diplomat has probably learned some history lessons from the defeat of the Macedonian, British and Soviet military in Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  29. Allen L Wenger

    Of course it is harder, why do you think the Bush Administration decided to fight in Iraq? Fighting in a desert is much easier than fighting in Mountains.

    Mountain Home ID

    February 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  30. Chuck in Ohio

    Jack: Can you remember when the war in Afghanistan started? Just think if Bush had finished the only reason we were in Afghanistan to start with. We have not managed the war and let the real enemy get away so the conflict can go on forever. The real answer is to win the hearts and minds of the people. They have nothing to look forward too. They need the same human comforts as we do.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  31. Diane, Barneveld, NY

    It should be much tougher in Afghanistan. After all, we trained them and supported them when they fought against Russia. We seem to do that way too much in the middle east. Then we have nerve enough to say THEY are crazy because they hate us or they hate freedom. DOH!

    February 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  32. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Jack, it means we will be going the way of Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Ottoman Empire, the Monguls, the British, the Russians, and every other group that's tried to control the region.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  33. Diane/Allentown PA

    It means he sugar coated it Jack.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  34. Darren

    Afghanistan is the called "the graveyard of empires." due to all the failed coups throughout the ages - and it looks like we're the next in line.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  35. Mari Fernandez, Salt Lake City, Utah

    It means that the 'war on terror' is much more complex, than Bush/Cheney first believed. Its much more than just attacking a village or two! The Afghan people, the people of the Middle East, for that matter, have been enemies for centuries. Its arrogant of the U.S. to think that we can go in with our powerful army and rid the region of terrorists!

    February 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  36. Mike, FL


    I think with the mountains and Pakistan it is creating a much more dangerous place to go from one area/cave to the next. Afghans also to reliant on the Opium trade and thier trading partners are not friends of ours. Pakistan is very dangerous that their Nuclear weapons could get into the wrong hands. So it is a fine line, but I think much more stable than Iraq. We should have been here all along not Iraq and we would of had 8 yrs of 100% concentration in Afghan vs the personal war of Bush.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  37. David in Indiana

    Osama bin Laden, at one time, fought alongside others in his struggle. But now, I believe that he is in Pakistan where he moves from home to home, not cave to cave. He lets others do his fighting for him, ie The World Trade Center.
    It will be harder for the U.S. and its allies because expansion into Pakistan is needed to catch/kill him. Pakistan doesn't want us there. Their government is either inept or complicit in bin Laden remaining at large. Even if he is put out of commission, do you seriously think that will end the violence. It's in our nature.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  38. Jeff in E. Lyme, CT

    I see Afganistan as a much easier problem. Fewer high-population areas, no sectarian violence, less possibility for corruption. The main problem in dealing with Afganistan is that the cowardly enemy hides among the population in Pakistan. Training for and deployment of troops & equipment should be geared toward and concentrated on the mountainous border separating the two countries.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  39. Jeff in Glen Carbon IL

    I am sure it isn't a surprise to anyone that the country that defeated the Soviets will not be easy for us, either. Unlike them, we are on the right side, however, backing a Democracy in an essentially undemocratic civilization doesn't get you very far. We don't have a Saddam clique that can be bought off and this time, Charlie Wilson's renegades are not necessarily on our side. If we cannot win the minds and hearts of their most respected centrist religious leaders, we need to re-think why we are there. But, before we leave, we need to put a dent in Pakistans NW corner, or we will never be able to touch it again.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  40. Tom, Bradenton,FL

    Why are we wasting money on a country filled with opium, rocks and sand, and brain washed religious fanatics while we are starving at home? The British, the Persians, the Soviets went bankrupt there and we are next, for what?

    February 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  41. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Afghanistan doesn't have WMDs, a dictator or a statue of a dictator to topple to say mission accomplished so this creates a different kind of war than Iraq. There are too many fronts to fight in Afghan other than the terrorist and poppy seed farmers, there is interferences from other countries waging a different kind of war without military force.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  42. Maurice - Two Rivers, WI

    The best strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is to simply contain the terrorists. This can be accomplished by offering financial incentives for information regarding the terrorists. It is the only way to get our goal accomplished. The military can't win this war without completely destroying both countries and we don't want that.

    Two Rivers, Wisconsin

    February 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  43. Rick Medina,OH


    Afghanistan reflects so many lost opportunities. The world (and the American public) supported the U. S. response to 9/11 in Afghanistan. One cannot help but wonder what Afghanistan might be today had the U. S. committed the resources (both manpower and money) to Afghanistan that we squandered in Iraq. We might have replaced vicious warlords with democratic government, poppy fields with food crops, and fear and misery with hope and growing living standards. They talk about Iraq as a 'model of democracy' in the Arab world; we passed on that opportunity, when we cut short the mission in Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  44. Tripp Mechanicsburg, PA

    As much as I would like to agree with Mr. Karzai when he insists his country is not a “narco state,” I think he delusional. Poppy is Afghanistan's cash crop. Heroine is their chief export. The warlords have a stranglehold on farmers which means most Afghani. They are threatened with their lives and the lives of their children. Their daughters are sold into slavery if they can not pay the warlords their due. Pakistan provides safe haven for Alqaida. The Taliban controls most of Afghanistan. Unless there is an all out effort made by all nations to police it, Afghanistan will never come out of the dark ages.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  45. Carol, Lakewood Co

    Jack, I have three sons in the military, one son is in Iraq (Ramadi), one just came back from Baghdad, and another son at Ft Lewis, Wa is training for Afghan. My thoughts: we should have been there in the first place ! Now, we are all war-weary– mothers, included.
    Colorado Mom

    February 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  46. Ken M . Millington MI

    Hello Jack. Finally Afghanistan begins to get some recognition the war on terror has always been there! When bush diverted all our resources to Iraq , Afghanistan became the forgotten front. The fighting in afghanistan is tough i know i was there in 2006. Did you know that know one since Alexander The great has ever subjugated Afghanistan. That includes Genghis Khan, The Perisans, The Romans, The British, The Russians and now The United States. everyone left broken and bankrupted. Afghanistan is a tough tough place to fight but maybe we could use some good old fashion honest diplomacy .

    February 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  47. Susan from Greenfield, Wi.

    It means that the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda are firmly entrenched and have learned to fight like a military unit over the last seven and a half years. It means that Obama will have a much tougher time doing a job that should have been finished years ago when Bin Laden was declared to be irrelevant by Bush. You hear that Cheney.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  48. Jack Shenandoah,Pa

    Jack, It means that the failed policies of the Bush, Cheney administration are going to haunt our country for a long, long time.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  49. Sandy in Arkansas

    I think it means that "it will be much tougher than Iraq" and that perhaps people are beginning to talk in realities. Our soldiers and their families are tired, our world approval is low, the Afghan landscape is rugged, and we are all weary of war and we are broke. I don't just think it will be tougher – I think without world wide support and participation it will be next to impossible.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  50. Tom from Boston

    It means we should learn from history. Genghis Khan failed. The Persians failed. The Soviets failed. Afghanistan has always been – and may always be – a "nation" comprised of tribes. The only chance we have is to work with the tribal leaders and even that is a long shot. Working through the corrupt regieme of President Hamid Karzai will absolutely fail.

    Besides, the real problem is Pakistan anyway.

    February 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  51. Bob D of Morristown, NJ

    Now that Afghanistan has been allowed to fester for five years due largely to the diversion of Iraq, it certainly is more difficult than Iraq. It's larger, has more people, the foes are real, very dedicated, and much better organized than those in Iraq.

    However, Afghanistan, and particularly Pakistan, are where the real enemies e.g. the perpetrators of 9/11 are. Unless we win the hearts and minds of the people in this region and turn them against Al Qaeda, and their supporters, we are doomed to an unwinnable battle with terrorists for generations to come.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  52. Carol

    This is the cost of taking our eyes off the real problem–Bin Laden!

    February 9, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  53. Jenny from Nanuet, New York

    It's tougher in Afghanistan because of the terrain as well as the lack of an effective government. Bin Laden was supposedly cornered in Bora Bora only to be allowed to remain free. But we finally have a competent president and administration, so let's see what they can do.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm |
  54. Bernadette Loesch

    Dear Jack, It means that we need to get the hell outta Dodge while the getting is good. We don't need another money sucking unwinnable war on our hands.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  55. Michele from Nevada

    It is Time to pull out of both wars and negotiate diplomatically with the powers that be in the region. There are plenty of people in that area that know far better than we do how to achieve workable solutions.

    No one EVER wins an occupation. Let's bring our citizens home.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  56. Ed from Montana


    It means somebody finally stopped drinking the koolaid in Washington DC.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  57. Jose from Hoboken, NJ


    If you read any history book, the assessment is right on the spot. All we attained was to create a free opium market , enrich a group of crocks and prove to these people that democracy does not work.

    My advice, get out while we can or replace the whole government, pronto.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  58. Norm

    Time to let the middle east fix there own problems, 14 century s of fighting cannot be solve by us. Time to move on and cure our own problems.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  59. singleton

    it means that we didn't finish the war on terror. we can't find the extremely Tall guy. And more innocent lives we will loose before its all said and done.
    San Antonio

    February 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  60. j

    Jack, what that means is that I will be seeing less of my husband in the days to come.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  61. grant Marcus

    I once saw a slogan on a T-shirt that read: Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam.
    They should have added on the back, Afghanistan is Dari for
    Cambodia. The war, from its inception has been a ghoulish fiction. The only way to support our troops now is to bring them home from this occupation as soon as possible. A war in Afghanistan will
    render this goal impossible.
    Grant in California

    February 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  62. Bobby from Tracy CA

    The enemy forces we fight in Afghanistan or more well armed and organized against U.S. forces compared to Iraq

    February 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  63. Tyler

    It means making concessions to the Taliban. There's no way NATO allies will send troops. Canadian troops have been there for years with nothing to show but death. Welcome to Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  64. Carlos M

    It's time to realize we are not the world's policeman. Afghanistan will be a quagmire we can ill afford. Let's bring our troops home. If we have to use them have them patrol our borders.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  65. Regina, PA

    What does it mean? Simply, be prepared for a very long war with no end in sight. Remember Vietnam? I do. Time to go home.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  66. Sultan

    What America needs to win the Afghan war, is not really more troops or more money. US needs honest and qualified Afghan partners. Bush's administration lost the trust of Afghans by partnering with warlords, criminals and a bunch of people like Karzai who have no leverage among Afghan people.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  67. Karl from SF, CA

    We have nothing to accomplish in Afghanistan. Pakistan is where the enemy is hiding and if we can’t get permission to go in to get them, then we need to come home. There is no reason to stay. Given Pakistan’s attitude and sympathies, we need to cut off all aid to them and tell them there is a half a trillion dollars in it for them when they deliver Bin Laden and his gang. It will be a lot cheaper and faster than spending more blood and treasure accomplishing nothing for decades. Money talks.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  68. John DiMarzio

    Afghanistan has so many problems that we do not get to see here in America that are inherently going to make the chances of success tougher. We fail to acknowledge the thriving drug trade and the problems with Pakistan. The surge in Iraq has helped the security of the country, so there is no surprise that Afghanistan is the greater issue here.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  69. Bradford F Kelly

    Unlike in Iraq, the international community is overwhelmingly behind US efforts in Afghanistan. More than 2,500 Canadian troops have suffered heavy casualties in Kandahar in support of US anti terrorism and nation building efforts there. This is a fight we can believe in and one in which the US will not be acting alone.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  70. Bill - Louisville Ky.

    It means that there is and never was any such thing as victory in Afghanistan, and that we should simply grieve for the needless loss of our American military members and bring the remaining peons home and truly protect the borders of our homeland.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  71. George

    From Laurel, MD

    Holbrooke means exactly what he said. Anybody who remembers Vietnam knows what a nightmare it was for us to wage a war of attrition in unfamiliar terrain against an experienced insurgency. It is not merely a matter of superior firepower and superior numbers. In fact, the expense which goes into recruiting, training and equipping a conventional soldier works to an insurgency's advantage.

    It's clear that we've bitten off much more than we can chew. The Soviet Union tried the same "shock and awe" tactics when we were on the other side; the Mujahideen beat them on a shoestring budget. Surely we've all seen Rambo III.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  72. Tommy Torres

    Jack, it means we are now clearly seeing the results of George W. Bush taking his eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and starting a war of choice in Iraq. Over the past six years, human and monetary resources that should have been used in Afghanistan to eliminate Al-Quida and the Taliban, and improve the lives of the Afghan people, were instead wasted in Iraq. Sadly, we now have gone backwards in Afghanistan, and will need to spend more money and risk more lives to improve the situation. It should have not been this way. Thanks a lot W: the gift that keeps on giving!

    February 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  73. Sandra

    It means we'll never win, because the terrain is too rugged and the Taliban will never give up. I think it was arrogant of us to go in there in the first place. It was like jumping into the gravel pit while being intoxicated.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  74. Margaret, Houston, Texas

    Afghanistan has always been the graveyard of empires, and if one examines ancient Near Eastern texts dating to 4500 years ago, one could find that the ancestors of today's Afghanis were defeating occupiers and invaders even then. Afghanistan will be the nail in the U.S. coffin. Fools rush in where wise men never go.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  75. Jeff in Minnesota

    The Taliban was heavily entrenched in Afghan society and that will not change overnight. In addition, a significant portion of the Afghan people in various areas of the country believed that the Taliban's goals and objectives were right which just adds to the problems we face. The only way to win in Afghanistan is to win the hearts and minds of the majority of people. That will take a democratic Afghan government along with our support to change. All the armies in Afghanistan can do is keep the peace while this change occurs.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  76. Dawit Yehualashet

    Jack, not only it is a battle for the souls and hearts of the of the Afghan people, it is also a battle with the impregnable mountains of Afghanistan and cultural geography that have contained the likes of Alexander the great, the British empire and most recently the Russians. American success hinges on striking a balance between what really the Afghan people want versus what an American foreign policy geared toward it.

    Dawit, Elkhart, IN

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  77. Emerson in Mass.

    We originally went into Afghanistan to clean out Al Qaeda. We did that, but then we went on to regime change.

    The greatest lesson from Vietnam is that we are unwilling to do what would be necessary to force a government on a people. We can give a government a chance to get started, but we cannot prop them up indefinitely.

    Of course, this means that we may need to mop up Al Qaeda every so often, but that is better than trying to preserve a government whose only virtue is being relatively friendly to us.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  78. Brenda


    All the things everyone says about Afghanistan are probably correct as many others have found out over the 'centuries". My question is "Why do we have to be there at all"?" Osama isn't there anymore and the country limped long before Osama was there. Just what would happen to us and the world if we just left and never went back? Russia didn't fall apart then they left. We can't be in every country in the world that is a mess.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  79. John in Deltona, FL

    Time to get out before we suffer further losses. The Karzai government is corrupt and the law of the land is based on revenge.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  80. James from NJ

    Nothing. These same "top diplomats" said only a few short years ago that Iraq was an un-winnable quagmire. I'm not saying Baghdad is as safe as Greenwich Connecticut, but the surge has had success. Let's try it in Afghanistan before we decide to abandon all our goals in the region. We owe the Afghanis that much at least.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  81. GM

    It means, for the sake of our troops, that we better not release anyone from Guantanamo and send them back to the battlefield in Afghanistan !!!

    February 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  82. john (Cobourg, Ontario, Canada )

    Jack; When pressure is put to bear on Nato allies to "do more", please keep in mind that no other Nato country, including the United States has lost more soldiers in combat in Afghanistan, per capita, than your neighbours, and closest friends to the north, Canada. Our Canadian troops have been manning the front lines for years while Nato allies continue to refuse to put their troops in harm's way. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  83. Natalia, Albuquerque, NM

    It simply means that we are no longer wanted in the area and need to look at our options realistically. "W the Decider" wasted valuable resources in his quest to secure Middle East oil reserves and millions in no bid contracts in Iraq for his supporters, like Halliburton. After 9/11, the world was with us in our fight against the terrorists. "W" squandered the sympathy and help of other nations we desperately needed to win. "W's" policies proved to those in the Middle East that America had imperialistic motives, and we are in a harder place to prove their way of thinking wrong. Now the Afghan citizens no longer trust our motives. The Obama Administration has a long tough road ahead should we stay the Afghan course.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  84. ESTEE / buffalo n.y.


    February 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  85. Pugas-AZ

    The Russians couldn't get anywhere in Afganistan except get a lot of their troops killed. Why follow in their footsteps. Pakistan is probably a bigger problem, and they have nuclear weapons. I really do not want to see more troops sent there. Leave them to their own devices-living as a feudal society.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  86. Loretta

    We should get the heck out of Afghanistan. They don't want us there, we can't win there, besides there's nothing to win there. If we want Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, we have to send in special forces to fight a cave war. Pakistan would resist us and they could find these terrorists easily, but they don't seem to care in spite of the billions of dollars we send them every year. There is no military solution. The more we insert ourselves into the area, the more terrorists we make. There were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded, the rest is history.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  87. John K.

    The less modern the society and government, the better the environment for groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban to thrive and challenge U.S. efforts.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  88. Mike McKibben, lady lake, Fl

    Gen Patton once said that he didn't like paying for the same real estate twice. Good philosophy! The Bush Admin, by taking man power and equipment out of Afghanistan in order to fight a war in Iraq, they opened the door for many of the military gains made in Afghanistan to go to the restart button, possibly dragging this mess out a lot longer than it needed to be. As a result, we may have to pay for the same real estate twice. Had we stayed in Afghanistan, we could have held our ground, the terrorists would have come our way there, and we could have fought this war on secured ground.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  89. Geraldine, Wasilla AK

    Afghanistan has huge tribal groups with major sub-clans, most especially the Pushtun aka Pashtun. Americans simply do not have the knowledge to deal effectively with a several millennium long entrenched tribal culture that supercedes even being Muslim. To try and impose a modern or eurocentric view of governance, economy, or social ideas onto Afghanis simply is doomed to fail. An increased military presence might get us to one end goal: Osama Bin Laden. It is unlikely to make allies within Afghanistan. How much do we want to pay in both money and lives to achieve a single short-term goal?

    February 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  90. Mac Dixon


    No one has ever won a war with that country.It would be like Vietnam all over again. The French could not win there and niether could the USA.

    In Afghanistan even the Russians could not beat them, Only Rambo

    The major buisiness over there is the Poppy fields, perhaps the US
    could legalize the drug manufacturing over there.

    Then we could sell it take the money/profit and fund the war instead of using Tax payers hard earned money.

    Mac Dixon

    February 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  91. Sly, Alpena, Mi

    That Diplomat was right Jack. If Russia couldn't handle Afghanistan, what make you think the United States could.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  92. Julius

    The war in Afghanistan will be much tougher. The Taliban are hiding out across the border into Pakistan, so it could be a delicate situation of going into that country and weeding them out there. Since I live in Canada, we have done more than our fair share of committing troops there. In fact, I read where it was being considered to double the amount of forces we do have over there, but its just not enough. In order for the war to succeed, NATO needs help from the Pakistani gov't and that country's army. Permission to enter Pakistan and fight the Taliban there is a major key into winning this war. Some NATO allies have made the committment– it is now up to the Americans to do the same, what should have been done 6 yrs ago... instead of invading Iraq.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  93. Phil G in FL

    Somebody remind me why we are even there in the first place. Wasn't it another one of G.W.'s ideological convictions to create an American type Democracy in a Middle Eastern country which did not want it in the first place? What it means is, this part of the world is not worth one more American life nor one more American dollar. In a poker game when I know my hand cant win, I cut my losses and fold. We should cut our losses in Afganastan and just get out. Let those people settle their differences how ever they want too. Secure our border and imigration policies so those radicals cannot get into America.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  94. Gene Guzman

    It's the reality Jack! The Russians are probably in a better position to answer your question. After all, they suffered a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  95. Doug from R.I.

    Jack! It means the U.S. should have listened a little more to Congressman Charlie Wilson back in the early 90"s .

    February 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  96. Kyle- DuPont, WA

    To say the the war in Afghanistan is going to be tougher than Iraq is an understatment. Afghanistan has essentially been under seige both internally and externally since the fall of the monarchy and the current generation has no concept of peace or security. All they know is war. Couple this with the fact that the infrastructure is archaic, the Taliban is motivated by ignorance and tetosterone, and the central governments’ power does not extend beyond Kabul and you have the perfect scenario for disaster. If we are to succeed we need not look to Iraq for lessons learned, but to Somalia.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  97. Nancy, Tennessee

    Afghanistan may be tougher, but many people believe it is where the war on terror should be fought. It's time to get the bad guys and end the taunting tapes from Osama bin Laden. Osama has enjoyed the comfort of the hills way too long. He needs to be flushed out so he can attend roll call at a maximum security prison on a daily basis. The Taliban needs to be Osama's cell mates. Before sending the troops to Afghanistan, we need to make sure every safeguard available is provided to all our military. We know it will be tough so we should do all we can to keep our soldiers safe and sound.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  98. Cliff Bailey

    Hi Jack, Afghanistan, this one is easy, just get out and don't go there.

    Vancouver, Canada

    February 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  99. Shirley, Northern Virginia

    Yes, Yes Yes! Someone should tell the Republicans that if they do not get on board with the President's Plan America will be looking for a second Party. Look at California, financially broke! Look at America, the Republicans spent the surplus and accumulated over a trillion dollars worth of debt! Someone needs to say that what they are trying to do now is too little too late, shut up and be quiet.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  100. Vig

    Had Bush gone after Bin Laden starting in Afganistan in 2001 – we may not be looking at a protracted combat zone which will claim many more American lives. Afganistan is a tribal region – something American's don't understand – that's why Bin Laden will never be caught. The best that can be hoped for is not "winning" but policing the country. Afganistan will take foot work, not might.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  101. Rosalynd, Florida

    It means that it is absolutely tougher. With the supply routes having recently been cut off and new ones needed not to mention so many mistakes having been made by Bush-Cheney to soil America's image with the Afghan people, it is going to be more than tough. All this for one man (Osama) who increased his popularity under Bush. It is just disturbing but if anyone can make it right, the Obama Administration can.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  102. Bryan

    Hope for the best. Expect the worst.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  103. Roy - Chicago IL

    Warlords are dispersed across Afganistan, and have entrenched themselves in power in their autonomous areas. The Taliban have many sympathizers there. A centralized government has failed to rally support across the country. And, the country has no natural resources that the world is clamoring for. This is the environment the U.S. is trying to win a struggle in......for the U.S. to try and solve the situation in Afganistan unilaterally is political and economic suicide.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  104. Melissa

    Of course it is when its been virtually neglected for the last 8 years as the President tried to make a name for himself as a "great wartime President sanctioned by god". Now the US has to clean up the mess it started. Its our fault.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  105. Mary Texas

    How about butting out of the middle east. Maybe we should use our intellegince instead of weapons.We need to take a long good look at the history of the people there and I wonder why we are there. Surely 9-11 could have been settled ina better manner than a full blown war against a country that had nothing to do with it.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  106. Tim in Texas

    It means that we have to have realistic goals for what we want Afganistan to 'look' like when we leave. If we assume that we are going to stay there until it is the proverbial land of milk and honey, then we'll be there forever. It also means that we have to remember why we went there in the first place. We went because the terrorist organization that attacked use had free rein to operate. Our goal must be that any such organization is not given such license now or in the future, not to establish a fully functional democracy.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  107. bink

    It means the diplomat is telling the truth, Jack.
    Have you seen th terrain, walked the countryside, listened to the taliban and the people? Experienced the fierce pride of the people- people who have lived the tribal life for centuries and do not flinch at day to day danger? Who take bullets and bombs and invasion in their stride.

    These people are survivors and will turn to anything or anyone who can support that cause! Especially, if they feel they are being nigated or marginalized!! They are tribal, indepent and loyal.

    We must win their trust in the mountains and the frigid windswept plains –where there is little room for the luxury of philosophy or putting our values onto them.

    Obama says to listen–we best start now. That is the only way we can come to a peaceful conclusion!

    February 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  108. vern-t anaheim,ca

    yes the war in afghanistan will be tougher than the war in iraq,the soviet union couldn't defeat them and had to give up so why does our goverment think they can.the casulities the russians suffered there were tremendous and i don't want to see the u. s. have those kind of casulties and i agree with those who say to get out of there

    February 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  109. Jerry from Monroe Co., WV

    It means he might know what he's talking about. Remember Dan Rather on the mountain tops there filming the locals shooting down Russian aircraft with the stinger shoulder fired missles we gave them. Boy, I hope they don't have any left over.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  110. Nate From Michigan

    It means that Afghanistan is just another place where there is no military solution. It will be an endless dump hole for taxpayer money. All we can do is empower the people the best we can, and hope they like self-determination over the nutty Taliban and Al Qaeda.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  111. Mark in Savannah


    Jack they don't call Afghanistan the "Graveyard of Empires" for nothing...We've got to be extremely careful there...

    February 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  112. David Bakody Nova Scotia

    Jack, it may be impossible to leave because before NATO the drug production was 1200 T/yr and it is now near 10,000T/yr and 85% is sold in North America ..... hello?

    February 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  113. jack frost

    Afghanistan should not be underestimated nor overestimated. Afterall Ghengis Khan crushed Afghanistan without much effort in the 1200's. You need a good strategy before going in which is something we are greatly lacking.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:48 pm |

    It means that the financial resources as well as our precious troops will be taken out of Iraq and relocated to Afghanistan. This means no end to war and sadly more casualties.... I wish that those elected to make these important decisions would think about this for once.....

    February 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  115. Bob

    We should have never went into Iraq, that was Bushes private war. the war should have never left Afganistan

    February 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm |