On "FOX News Sunday," yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she didn't believe that Americans want to be in Afghanistan for 10 years. Put that way, she's probably right. But put another way-- where it’s clear we’re in the fight to win -- where we're adapting to challenges from the Taliban and providing our troops with the resources they need to accomplish the mission, Americans are willing to accept an awful lot in lost lives and treasure.
The debate we're having about whether President Obama will give General McChrystal -- the general he personally appointed to run the new counter-insurgency plan he announced last March -- the troops and resources he says he needs to win, is unfortunately being played out in the media. This undermines the confidence of our men and women in uniform, the allies that are fighting alongside us, and the Afghanis. If that weren’t troubling enough, it signals weakness to the enemy – they expect us to lose our nerve, to buckle when things get rough.
So, now that the debate is out in the open, let's put it all out there, including Congressional testimony by Gen. McChrystal. By all means, let's talk about what it would take to win and, if it will satisfy some on the left, let's recount everything that went wrong in the last eight years. But let's also discuss in detail what we think will happen to the innocent people of Afghanistan if we leave without finishing the job.
In particular, I'm thinking of the women and girls of Afghanistan, who, if we left, would find themselves shoved further back into the dark ages-- where they are not allowed to work to feed themselves and their children, where young girls are prohibited from learning to read and instead get acid thrown in their faces when they dare to walk to school, where women are refused medical treatment, where being raped, beaten and humiliated is expected.
President Bush said that no country can succeed if it holds down 50 percent of its population. Unfortunately, the Taliban doesn't want its country to succeed. They want total control over the majority of the population-- especially women -- so that they can impose their maniacal view of the world on their own people and can offer shelter to terrorists who want to kill innocent people, including us, to advance their political agenda.
Are we really willing to let this happen again? If so, whom will we blame then?
While it sounds all well and good to just increase the size of the Afghan army and then allow it to protect the people that's simply not possible if we aren't there among the people. The hands-off, surgical strikes and counterterrorism posture proposed by some won't provide the Afghans what they need to succeed.
I remember about 10 months into the surge when our military, working closely with the Iraqis, started to turn the tide in Iraq... A general shared with me one of the key the differences between working with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: In Iraq if he was asked to train a soldier, usually that soldier was at least able to read and could attend a class, read a manual, and be tested on what he knew. In Afghanistan: not so much. The oppression has lasted so long, that many young men have never even learned how to write their names.
During this decade, we've learned a lot about our new enemy; most importantly, that counter-insurgency is a contact sport. And a laser-like focus on the mission, understanding it fully and believing it can be achieved, is essential to keeping America supportive of the war.
Thankfully, the military understands the stakes and knows that politics has nothing to do with it. The security of our country and the fate of the Afghan people are the first, second and third things on their minds at all times. The least we could do is give them what they need to win-- otherwise, their sacrifices will have been in vain and they'll likely send their children or grandchildren back to Afghanistan to finish the job they were originally assigned to do.
While it’s not pleasant to have this discussion in the open, we owe it to ourselves—and the Afghan people – to get it right.
Dana Perino is FOX News contributor and former White House press secretary.