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What others say: Afghanistan unhinged

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The following editorial appeared recently in the Dallas Morning News:

The urgent military and foreign policy challenges confronting the Obama administration in Iran and Afghanistan require U.S. officials to convey a clear sense of resolve while being extra sensitive to actions and words that can make tensions spiral out of control. With tensions rising rapidly, the administration cannot afford missteps or miscalculations.

Anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan reached fever pitch after U.S. troops dumped copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, onto a trash fire at an air base outside Kabul. A frenzy of protests has overwhelmed U.S.-trained Afghan security forces, leading to dozens of deaths. Afghans who appeared to be allies of the U.S.-led military training and stabilization effort have begun turning their weapons on foreigners.

On Saturday, two high-ranking U.S. military officers were shot inside a secure area of the Interior Ministry in Kabul. Early Monday, a car bomber killed nine Afghans during an attack on a U.S. military base in Jalalabad. Earlier, protesters burned 11 fuel trucks bound for the base.

Elsewhere, seven U.S. soldiers were wounded by a grenade attack during a protest. The U.S. military shut down a dining hall at one base over fears the food had been poisoned. Angry demonstrators killed seven foreigners while storming a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan, forcing the withdrawal of international staffers.

The Quran burnings, fresh on the heels of a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on enemy corpses, no doubt are helping the Taliban recruit new fighters.

Americans following these events would be justified in feeling that the decade-old military mission in Afghanistan is coming unhinged. Amid election-year posturing, the administration's recent announcement of plans to end the U.S. combat role next year added to this newspaper's doubts about the Afghanistan mission.

How can this mission succeed if U.S. officers can't trust their Afghan counterparts not to shoot them during planning sessions inside secure facilities? How can the security transition proceed if U.S. trainers can't trust their Afghan police and military trainees with weapons?

It is heartening to hear officials such as U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker declare their resolve to persevere until the mission is complete. At the same time, support for this war is waning in America as well as in Afghanistan, and it is time for the president to articulate a clearer vision of how to proceed.

If there's a winning strategy here, in spite of all the obstacles, Americans and Afghans need to see it.

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