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The next president is inheriting a very high-stakes challenge in Afghanistan. What should his priority be?

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Dear FRONTLINE,

I teach Modern World Issues at Richmond Heights High School in Richmond Heights Ohio and we just finished watching this segment on the War in Afghanistan. It sparked much discussion over whether or not we need to redeploy more troops from Iraq into this region. It seems to be shaping up to be this generation's 'Vietnam'. My class is now much more aware of how serious this situation is in Afghanistan. The consensus seems to be that the U.S. and Pakistan enter into a joint operation into the tribal regions on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to stamp out the Taliban. Some commented on the need for China and Russia to step up as well. We'll see. Great program! We love it!

Dominic Velotta
Richmond Heights , Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a Marine Corps wife, I think it is absolutly disturbing to hear people insinuate that if we pull our troops out of Afghanistan that we could be facing another 9/11. Is it okay that we keep our loved ones in Afghanistan until we have as many casualities as we did on 9/11? My husband's company has seen Iraq many times but facing Afghanistan and the amount of ground that needs to be secured is scary. Frontline said it best; that there are just not enough boots on the ground over there. Will there ever be enough? Keep our loved ones home. Thanks to President Obama my husband's unit is returning overseas after being home for less than 6 months. Not exactly what the nation had in mind.

Mindy Bullock
Camp Lejeune, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm going to start off by saying I just finnished an 18 month tour in Afgahnistan. I served with 3 different embedded training teams in Kunar province. I've spent time in Kabul and Jalallabad but most of my time was spent in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces. God bless you all for having your opinion and I will fight to my last breath for you to have it. However, I would suggest that you become more informed before you make your opinion known. The individual who said that fighting is going on all over Afgahnistan doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. Better research instead of taking the media at face vaule might have clued him in. I was in the Korengal when PBS and MSNBC did their stories. You should look for more sources. While reporters were actually on the ground in the Korengal I was present at alot of other battles that were reported on. The funny thing is I never saw A single reporter before or after the battle yet they reported on it ad if they were witnessing it first hand. I'll give you an example. The battle of Wanat happened on July 13, 2008. That day 70 US and ANA were attacked by 250 insurgents. They were badly outnumbered and had 9 KIA and 15 WIA. Some of the insurgents made it to the wire. In fact they had to pull some of the bodies out of the wire. It was one hell of a fight. The papers in the following days talked about how they were overrun or at least almost overrun. The only problem I have with this reporting is that I know for a fact that not a single reporter was there for the battle or the 4 days after when they pulled out. The reason I knoe this is because I was there. If you want to get the cold hard facts about what is really happening ask a soldier or a marine. I wonder if PBS is going to have the guts to post this.

Scott Sayles
Belton , Mo

Dear FRONTLINE,

After viewing "The War Briefing", I wanted to write and voice my opinion that America and all the other NATO powers should get out of Afghanistan. HOWEVER, I think that perhaps FRONTLINE might want to go back and do a second part on ALL the NATO troops and the fighting that is going on all over Afghanistan. I want to know if any of the fighting and dying has been worthwhile or is it all hopeless? I feel that the program was biased in the way that it only depicted one specific company of US soldiers on one ridge. There is fighting all over Afghanistan, and some of it must be doing some good for the Afghan people.

I can only hope that President elect, Mr. Barack Obama can sort out everything and make an INFORMATIVE decision as to whether the U.S. troops stay or leave Afghanistan.

As far as OBL goes, I would only hope that our country would not just let a mass murderer go free to brag to the world that he made America cower from his attack. This man needs to be brought to justice. No matter how long it takes.

I do feel that we as a country, need to commit to one war at a time. Our troops are spread way to thin. The entire war efforts on all fronts need to have a strict and thorough investigation from all views. Our economy is in a very volatile state. If our nation is going to fight abroad, we need to make sure that we can afford to do so. Our troops need full support out in the field. By watching this video, it doesn't look as if they have everything that they need. Especially when it comes to people filling those troops.

Deborah Bryant
Conroe, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

My son is serving in Afghanistan, Army Infantry. I only hope President Elect Mr. Obama keeps a clear head and stays focused on whats going on in Afghanistan,..And even more,..Know when to say enough is enough. I am terrified that come the spring and summer of 2010,..The numbers killed in Iraq,..Won't compare to the casualities we will endure in Afghanistan. Personaly,..I don't see us winning over there,..You can't beat terrorism,..you can only hold it back. And that being the case,..why should we continue losing our loved ones over there ?

Inkster, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Finally an in depth look at the Pashtun region and Pakistan's dilemna...however I believe that the program unfortunately missed reaching the obvious conclusion and asking the central question. The US and indeed Nato itself do not have the political will to "win" in Afghanistan, so we should consider what this will mean for the region and for our foreign policy. The economic problems faced in the US are the guarantee of a continuation of a very limited ground force in the region and an eventual pullout of troops. The tensions between India and Pakistan will be the next focus for the so called "al quaeda" organizations, as already evidenced by the Mumbai attacks and the fallout from them... If we do not develop a more sophisticated diplomatic approach to the problems of India, Pakistan, and the entire region, then the threat briefly alluded to of Pakistan as an Islamic state controlled by fundamentalists is a certainty.

Jamie McRae
Toronto, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

Our (American) Military-Industrial Complex mentality always seems to lead us to declare war on something - poverty, drugs, terrorism, and who knows what is next. The taliban/al qaeda problem is a long term criminal and educational issue. Young muslims are being converted all over the Muslim world to a radical view of the world, because there are no alternatives being proferred by governments. The approach of the countries of the world has to be centered on educattion, jobs, and anti-radical discussion by muslim clerics and governments (whatever happened to USIA/USIS?). The Islamist world needs to be convinced to produce as much anti-al qaeda propaganda as the Jihadist are producing. The talibans of the world are not going to be defeated militarily - you don't defeat an ideology with military force. The current counter-insurgency tactics of "clear-hold-build" simple don't work against an ideological insurgency in their own territory - remember Vietnam (destroying the village to save it!). I don't think America and the west (their respective government leaders) have the patience nor the understanding of the underlying problems to deal with the current situation.

Robert Resseguie
Oswego, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

The Frontline presentation, as always was to the point, insightful and informative. Having deployed to Afghanistan's Paktia and Khwost Provinces in early 2003, the overall condition of the country to include significant infrastructure development and security has indeed gone from bad to much worse.

The options are perhaps much fewer than during my time. The window of opportunity in Afghanistan during 2002 and 2003 in many way abandoned for the lead up and execution of the Iraq War. I saw assets in Afghanistan being drained away slowly as Iraq become more of a problem thereby leaving a "black hole" in Afghanistan allowing the Taliban insurgents to regroup and regain strength.

That said, the program accurately provides three pillas of the insurgency which include opium cultivation, Taliban influence in the tribal area affecting security through Afghanistan and now a larger issue..the overthrow of the Pakistani government.

Frankly, taking a hard look at the options leaves little to affecting a long term resolution. Keep in mind, the USG tolerated the Taliban until which time "they" would not detain, arrest or capture UBL. To this day, no one including Steve Cole knows who in the USG communicated the option if in fact, the Taliban or whomever did not agree to hand over UBL. For the most part, it appears the Saudi's may have been the link to the Taliban..but, no one really knows for certain.

Did "we" talk to the right people about UBL..who spoke with Mullah Omar in Kandahar about UBL. With a fractured tribal mix within Afghanistan, if is safe to say no one had complete authority.

Did the Bush Administration "handle" this correctly? Could there of been some way to capture UBL under the existing Taliban control?

We shall never know..but, I and others hope someone with some authority would ask.

Randy Hampton

Dear FRONTLINE,

Ok you guys just made me have to join this to talk some "sense". It disturbs me to see people just spit out views on subjects they have not bothered to have the time to look up. Very simply put the Russian's had trouble in Afghanistan due to our giving the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) weapons to fight them with. This progressively amped itself up through the years to the point of stinger missles and the downing of Russian helicopters. Which quelled the advances the Russians had made with a change of tactics.

In terms of Britain they were about occupying. Many places were under the British Empire as well. They all fell, as well.

The problem now is Pakistan's intelligence agency (ISI) We the United States did not care who the ISI gave the weapons to as long as it all made its way to Afganistan to kill Russians for payback in regards to Vietnam. The Taliban is a creation of the ISI to go in and take control of Afghanistan. Al Qeada / Islamic terrorist/ Islamic Jihadists did not necessarily like the Taliban. They were viewed as Innovators in the worse sense of that word. They also viewed Iraq and Saddam as going against Islam. This is true with Iran as well.

They had grand visions of taking over Iraq and having Iran surrounded on both sides. The United States beat them to the punch which I cannot base with facts but this is why the Foreign Jihadists or whatever term you want to tag on to them are in Iraq. To take control of the country while it is weak.

Oh and lets see. Terrorists can knock down two buildings and fly a plane into the pentagon. Blow up Marine barracks in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, bomb our ships etc etc etc. This in turn means we should leave Afghanistan because we might get hurt. I think all of you with this view should stick to talking about Sports/tv shows etc. We have the means and the ways to combat this. We need the will of the American people to do it. I understand the misleading of the public under the Bush administration but this has nothing to do with a situation that has been at hand for more than his 8 yrs. I also understand the fragility of Pakistan and that they have nuclear weapons they can use and we need to be concerned with who is in power.

But we are at war. We need to do what we can to win swiftly and decisively. Our only problem with the wars we are fighting is that we are not there to take over their countries. We are not Russia and moving in permanently with an iron fist. There is no stability. With that it gives opportunity for our enemy to operate and try to make gains and more over to wait us out. To have more will than we have. As much as we kill them they are very much still in this fight. I dont believe in the Fear Mongering that has been spun but we all should still be very concerned of what could happen.

James B
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although very insightful and impressive, I believe your documentary narrowly focuses on the US military strategy in Afghanistan. However, I think the 8000-strong NATO ISAF force from 36 countries should at least be acknowledged. Spain is contributing with 553 troops and has already lost 87 brave men and women fighting alongside with US troops, something many in America are not even aware of. Spain and many others are committed to winning this war.

Luis M Bueno
Madrid, Spain

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear FRONTLINE,

I wonder sometimes if the analysts and journalists featured in this documentary remember how we marginalized the Taleban in 2001. The United States sent in CIA operatives who struck deals with local tribesmen to drive out the Taleban. But it came at a price. We were buying their loyalty with millions of dollars. When that money ran out the tribal leaders shifted their affiliation back to the Taleban who gave them protection and allowed them to produce opium. Is it really a surprise that the situation has deteriorated?

Rommel De La Cruz
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Those viewers who want to give up and get out of Afghanistan should remember that America did just that in the late 80's when the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan fizzled. The result was chaos and foreign interference that culminated in the Taliban-Qaeda alliance and the 9/11 attacks. Let's not do that again.

One way to pacify the Pushtun insurgency in Afghanistan would be to arm those tribes and local warlords who have a vested interest in the success of the central government over the provincial-minded Taliban. This is an unsavory option but it beats the current strategy of slowly hemorrhaging soldiers.

Of course, the warlords will abuse their power (they always do). To check the power of the warlords, foreign troops should be stationed in super-local village and district reconstruction teams similar to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that exist at the province level. These reconstruction teams would serve to watch the warlords and militias and buy goodwill by financing reconstruction at the individual district (i.e. tribe) level.

Haroon Ahmad
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Another excellent presentation with a lot of really good background material for the 'Joe average' citizen who has been distracted by events in Iraq for the past five years. The real problem is that there WAS a 'window' of opportunity in Afghanistan that lasted from about 2002 to 2004 when we COULD HAVE done something to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people ... but we blew it. Our resources were diverted elsewhere. Viewers who are interested in 'what went wrong' should check out Sarah CHAYES excellent "The Punishment of Virtue" (Afghanistan after the Taliban 2002-2006) and the more recent "Decent into Chaos" by Ahmed RASHID. Journalist Arthur Kent also maintains a thought-provoking website on recent events in Afghanistan at www.skyreporter.com.

The only criticism that I might level is that this documentary had a very 'American' slant to it. If one did not know better one would assume that the only soldiers fighting the Taliban were American. No mention was made of the NATO forces present in this theatre. The Canadians and British are both heavily involved in the fighting (and the dying).

Adam Hedinger
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

Basing the state of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan on the Korengal Valley, arguably the worst valley in Afghanistan, does not give a clear picture of the state of the country. While gripping television, the other 98% of the country is nothing like the Korengal.

There was very little discussion and no showing of the work with the Afghan National Security Forces, their progress, challenges, successes and failures. As a veteran of the advisor mission with ANSF, this was a huge omission and a failure to portray the progress made with the real mechanism for any success in Afghanistan. You paint a dismal picture while ignoring most of the palate, using only black and gray.

You did nothing to help anyone understand what an ETT or a PMT is, nor the advisor mission. LTC(R) Nagl mentioned it, but it was treated in the program as an aside, with no exploration of the advisor mission. Advising and mentoring are the keys to being able to leave a successful government in place when we are done. This was not explored.

The section on the Pakistani Taliban was informative.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a former soldier who did two tours in Afghanistan, I commend PBS for a balanced, insightful and accurate program. Thanks for showing our fine troops doing their best to accomplish their missions and get back home in one piece.

Todd Guggisberg
Kansas City, KS

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posted october 28, 2008

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