In Kabul a few weeks ago, I met Sahib Dad, an Afghan father. During the 2001 U.S. invasion, two of his girls were killed when a U.S. bomb missed its target and exploded in their playground. He says he never saw an American face, never received an apology. At the time, the United States had no program in place to provide compensation for his loss or aid for his family. Meanwhile, the Taliban brought cotton to wrap the dead and food, money and medical care for his wife’s severe head injury. That’s straight out of the insurgency playbook. And it’s one reason the insurgents are winning small battles everyday.
There is still time to avoid defeat (or a bloody debacle) in Afghanistan. But NATO forces, which in October took command of military operations there from the United States, must recognize what America has learned the hard way in Iraq: You can’t win the war if you don’t win the people.