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Which way in Afghanistan?

October 28, 2009

Re "Push for troops on a deadly day," Oct. 27, and "Nobody wins in the Afghan runoff election," Opinion, Oct. 21, and "The Afghan trap," Opinion, Oct. 20

Sending more troops to Afghanistan will increase the killing, not only of our own troops but of the Afghan people as well, simply because we are still there.

After bombing and killing arguably tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and still counting, when are we going to realize that we cause more deaths by occupying these countries than by minding our own business?

In the last seven years, we have lost thousands of troops, and the killing still goes on.

Years from now, we will still be counting the deaths in Afghanistan, engaged in a war that we know we can't win, and once again asking ourselves: How and why do we get ourselves into these messes?

Bob Murtha

Santa Maria, Calif.

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Rajan Menon's pessimism in his Op-Ed article is well-founded regardless of which candidate wins, Hamid Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah.

Karzai has an eight-year record of incompetence and crookedness, and there is no sign that he will be different in the next five years. And Abdullah has a dismal record of governance and personal impropriety.

The White House is fooling itself by placing much credence on the outcome of a runoff election.

The crucial issue is not a Western-style election in Afghanistan but the ability of the candidates to reach the villages and districts and become effective partners with Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy to end the war there.

Nake M. Kamany

Pacific Palisades

The writer is a faculty member in the USC economics department.

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As Gilles Dorronsoro so eloquently articulates in his commentary, America's fundamental lack of understanding regarding how the host culture(s) in the various regions of Afghanistan view our presence in their territory is significant.

The ethnocentric myopia of our leaders and policy planners continues to frustrate those of us who cannot help recalling American missteps in Southeast Asia, when we tried to fight among indigenous people as we struggled to win their hearts and minds.

Americans always wish to see ourselves as the good guys because we can't imagine that our Western notions of how the world should work might be threatening to or misunderstood by others. It is also possible that others see our motives more clearly and honestly than we can.

Without entities we have defined as our enemies in that region, one wonders if there would be a large American presence in Afghanistan to "help" the indigenous residents of a part of the world that is, in many ways, so far away from ours.

Jed Shafer

Seal Beach

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Sooner or later, we will have to talk to the Taliban. It's inevitable, so why delay? It's clear that we cannot "win" in Afghanistan in the traditional sense -- that is, wiping out the enemy.

The Afghans know that the U.S. will leave someday, but they will not. After all, it's their country; they live there.

After years of propping up sorry, corrupt and ineffective governments in South Vietnam, the U.S. finally decided to enter into peace talks with the North Vietnamese. The same should happen with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This doesn't mean that we should give in to any demands, only that we should open negotiations. Our willingness to talk is our opening gambit. We should make it clear that we are not going to abandon our bases in Afghanistan, at least not in the short term.

But sooner or later, we will have to talk to the enemy -- and sooner means that more lives will be saved.

Jim Calio

Marina del Rey

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