The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Vol 106 / Issue 33 - 34

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WASHINGTON – As Islamist rebels continue to hold ground and even to make headway in Iraq, questions are circulating in Washing- ton about whether those developments offer a cautionary tale for Afghanistan. That has been a concern of lawmakers who have questioned Pentagon offcials re - peatedly about such a prospect, particularly after the White House set a new timetable in May to draw down US troops in Afghanistan to zero by the end of 2016. "What have we learned about the situ- ation in Iraq that we can apply to Afghan- istan, in terms of their ability to defend themselves once we're gone?" Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois asked during a recent hearing with Defense Secretary Chuck Ha- gel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It is my judgment that the two bear very little comparison," Secretary Hagel respond- ed. "Afghanistan is not Iraq – internally, his- torically, ethnically, religiously." The differences include pluses and mi - nuses, Dempsey noted. "The Afghans are far more tenacious fghters than their Iraqi counterparts. That is both reason for op - timism and reason for concern," he said, alluding to the possibility that fghting in Afghanistan could also continue long after US troops leave. Unlike Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Afghanistan's two presidential candidates – awaiting the result of a runoff election at press time – have said they will agree to host a residual US force. In light of recent developments in Iraq, however, US lawmakers are skeptical of the reliability of Afghan forces that US troops have spent a decade mentoring. "We'd had years of training provided by US forces in Iraq, then saw so many of the Iraqi military just throw down their arms when militants advanced on them," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont said. "Do we face a similar situation in Afghanistan?" Dempsey, who was in charge of training Iraqi security forces from 2005 to 2007, did not rule out that possibility. Iraqi security forces threw down their arms "because they had simply lost faith that the central gov- ernment in Iraq was dealing with the entire population in a fair, equitable way," he said. "You asked if that could happen in Af- ghanistan – the newly elected government will have a lot more to say about that than anyone here," Dempsey added. "But I can't completely convince either myself or you that the risk is zero." President Obama says the crisis in Iraq has not caused him to reconsider the US role in Afghanistan. "We're prepared to have a residual force that helps to continue to train their forces, to continue to help stabilize the situation," he told MSNBC last month. That said, it will ultimately be up to that new government to hold the country togeth - er, Mr. Obama said. "Our goal in Afghanistan was to decapitate Al Qaeda, which had car- ried out 9/11. That has been accomplished." There is one further pivotal difference between the two nations, James Dobbins, the State Department's special representa- tive for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told law- makers in May. "In Iraq, the people didn't want us and not a single Iraqi politician was prepared to advocate our staying. In Afghanistan, the people overwhelmingly want us to stay," he said. – Anna Mulrine / Staff writer Human trafficking sinks Thailand New US ranking puts it at the bottom. What will impact be? BANGKOK, THAILAND – Ama was 15 when she was sold into sex slavery. She left her vil- lage in rural Cambodia on the advice of a neighbor who said she could get work in a bar in Thailand and send money home. At EXIT STRATEGIES Will Afghanistan go the way of Iraq? The biggest difference: Afghans want US to stay; Iraqis did not AHMAD MASOOD/REUTERS CHECKPOINT: Afghan police ofcers conducted security checks in Kabul last month during a runof vote for president. Both candidates say they will sign agreements to keep a residual US force in the country. 'I CAN'T COMPLETELY CONVINCE EITHER MYSELF OR YOU THAT THE RISK IS ZERO.' – US Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey, on the possibility of an Afghan Army meltdown V NEXT PAGE oneweek 10 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | JULY 7 & 14, 2014

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