Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

In need of Afghan policy

Throughout the presidential election, there were several points that one could expect to hear at an Obama rally. Health care needed to be reformed, policies should help those on Main Street, not just those on Wall Street, and that the Iraq war should be brought to an end with a renewed focus on the “right war” in Afghanistan. On two of these issues, there has been undeniable action, though the efficacy of the measures should be questioned. On Afghanistan, however, President Obama has been a failure to his voters, to those under his command and to America.

There is never going to be a way to definitively know what kind of strategy will produce results in Afghanistan. It is important to understand what our goal is in this country, half a world away from Afghanistan. To my understanding, at first it was to find and kill Osama Bin Laden, but since then (now almost eight years into the conflict) there has been undeniable mission creep. The US military and its NATO allies have kicked out the Taliban only to see them come back. Al Qaeda has apparently relocated to Pakistan and Bin Laden has not been found or killed. The recent elections were marred by fraud and President Karzai’s run-off opponent dropped out. News coming home from Afghanistan is beginning to sound similar to the news coming from Iraq at its worst with 14 Americans dying on a single day about two weeks ago.

Through it all, President Obama has appallingly failed to make a decision on his strategy in Afghanistan for the next several years. While it is necessary to take a step back and consider options when attacked by former Vice President Dick Cheney for failing to make a decision quickly, enough is enough. The war in Afghanistan was President Obama’s number one foreign policy issue when he was campaigning. He should have known all sides of the issue.

Instead, it seems to have been a surprise that General Stanley McChrystal’s report on Afghanistan requested many more soldiers. The general in charge of the Afghan theater requested at least 40,000 more soldiers to fully implement the counterinsurgency strategy initially endorsed by Obama. The basic tenets of counterinsurgency sound relatively simple: protect the population. This was the strategy that General Petraeus implemented to such great tactical success in Iraq when he oversaw the surge of military forces into that country. Now, McChrystal is attempting to replicate Petraeus’ success.

To make counterinsurgency effective in Iraq, General Petraeus required a huge infusion of soldiers so he could begin moving them off huge forward operating bases and into villages. Their old mission involved driving routine patrols in convoys of armored humvees and tanks. Their new mission was to live among the population and to conduct patrols on foot, to take their sunglasses off and show Iraqis that American soldiers were not some monolithic foreign enemy.

Thomas Ricks’ history of the Iraq War highlights General Petraeus and the tactical success he squeezed out of Iraq. Unfortunately, the political breakthroughs necessary to make the surge a total success have not yet happened years later. This is what General McChrystal is facing. He needs to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that can succeed in winning over the population. He needs the additional soldiers to protect common Afghanis who are just trying to live their lives. Based on the tactical success that emerged in Iraq after this new strategy was put into place, there is hope that the same will happen in Afghanistan. But General McChrystal, the soldiers on the ground, the people of Afghanistan and President Obama all desperately need political breakthroughs, as well.

I am a lowly college senior, basing what I write on foreign policy blogs, news articles and books about the region. I do not know if this new strategy will work out in the end. I do not know if an alternative strategy, such as reducing the number of American soldiers and focusing only on small special operations forces to contain Al Qaeda, is a better option. But, I do know this: lives depend on the decision. President Obama’s presidency has been marked by taking the middle ground on the stimulus, on health care and on Wall Street reform. President Obama knew coming into office that all eyes were going to be on Afghanistan. He should have been prepared for all possible outcomes. Mr. President, the American people, the men and women putting their lives on the line and the Afghan people just fighting to live a normal life, need your decision.

Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at nmilano@student.umass.edu.

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