Herb Phillipson: Don’t leave Afghanistan in the lurch againPublished 10:59am Thursday, September 10, 2009
Years ago Thom, Dorothy and I, Herbert Phillipson, traveled to Ladahk, Kashmir, a northern province of India, and trekked through that high desert.
We crossed ice bridges and walked narrow, precipitous paths in that sparsely populated wind-scoured mass of rocks.
We saw the abject poverty in the villages along the rushing rivers flowing from and below K2 and Nanga Parbat of the Karakoram range of the Himalayas.
Little did I know then that in a few years, areas just a few miles west would be involved in a bitter struggle involving the United States, NATO and Moslem extremists.
If you have not read them, “Descent into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, and “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, are excellent revelations of what has and is now happening in those harsh, high and forbidding lands.
Neither author is a partisan in the political backbiting over the “War on Terror.”
Both books tell a horror story and the need for help for the area caused by decades of fighting.
Both books show two approaches to a problem: One, followed by the U.S. in the deepening mire of Afghanistan and Iraq, dead wrong.
One gloriously right.
Mortenson’s book tells of an American, survivor of a failed attempt to climb K2, second highest mountain in the world, bringing education to upwards of 30,000 of the area’s children.
He goes anywhere in these war-torn areas building, supporting schools and fostering good will.
These children, most from illiterate parents, have been receiving an education amounting to a revolutionary event for them, their parents and their villages.
Our military’s present approach, without the guns and bombs, fosters good will and public support of the cause of peace.
Our drones and Stinger missiles, according to these books, defeat the chance for peace like any bomb destroys humans.
The cost of one Stinger would pay for many, many schools.
Mortenson’s approach will take years and at least a generation, but is effective.
After we forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan, we left a land destroyed and ready for Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban to fill the vacuum.
Then we defeated the Taliban and drove out Bin Laden.
We turned our back on Afghanistan again.
Is history going to repeat itself?
In the words of Sadhar Kahn, a tribal leader (war lord?) of northern Afghanistan, “We fought with Americans, here in these mountains, against the Russians. And though we heard many promises, they never returned to help us when the dying was done.”
Someday I hope that my descendants will visit that high, forbidding land brilliantly clad in towering rock and ice.
Let them find a happy, literate populace, including girls released from a future of poverty and slavery in a male-dominated, extremist society.
President Obama: Don’t ditch Afghanistan again.
Herb Phillipson is a former judge.