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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Forgotten Afghanistan war shows a little more success

The world would be a safer place today if the war on terrorism had stayed focused on Afghanistan.

Saddam Hussein would still be in power huffing and puffing but doing little else and the U.S. would still be patrolling the no-fly zone to protect the Kurds from attacks.

Baghdad would still be a lovely city, Iran and Iraq might have gotten into another fight instead of Teheran taking nuclear center stage, and the U.S. could have concentrated on finding Osama bin Laden.

More importantly, keeping the war confined to Afghanistan would have meant the U.S. still had the world's goodwill after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

NATO forces Sunday ended a two-week offensive in Afghani-stan that the brass says was a "significant success" in the southern region near Pakistan. The U.S.-led forces said they killed 500 militants during the two-week period.

As the war focus turned to Iraq, the hunt for Taliban members who gave shelter to al-Qaida terrorists lost priority. Commanders are now calling for greater air support and more troops to chase out the persistent Taliban fighters who creep back into society.

In spite of its shakiness, Afghanistan has a functioning democratic government but only with NATO protection. Unlike Baghdad, Kabul's central government continues to redevelop safe areas.

The war in Afghanistan, too, is a long way from being over, or won. But by contrast, it is a relative success. By some accounts, it appears more winnable than the one in Iraq. Even if it isn't, the U.S. had no other choice but to go to war against the Taliban.

Now that we know Iraq was a minor military threat before the war, our nation's decision to go to war there was a bad one that will haunt us for decades, even in Afghanistan.

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