IndyStar.com Opinion November 27, 2007 Marie Cocco Repeat of Afghan history? WASHINGTON -- Winter approaches, and as many as 400,000 Afghans face starvation. The trouble is not an insufficient supply of food. There is no way to get food to those who need it. Attacks on aid workers and the hijacking of food convoys -- the United Nations' main feeding program says it has lost about 100,000 tons of food to attacks by insurgents and criminals so far this year -- have made it all but impossible to transport supplies along the main road connecting vast stretches of the country between Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west. Nothing exposes a hollow promise like the prospect of mass starvation. By now, six years after the United States and its Western allies launched military operations to avenge the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and free Afghanistan from the grip of the Taliban, humanitarian workers surely should not be forced to give up on feeding the desperate. But this is only one measure of our catastrophic failure. While the Bush administration crows about apparent pacification of some neighborhoods in Iraq as proof that its surge of military forces there is working, Afghanistan hurtles toward chaos. The Taliban has extended its presence through more than half of Afghan territory, according to new research by the Senlis Council, an independent, international think tank. This is no longer a regional or tribal threat, but a full-blown insurgency aimed at U.S., NATO and other allied troops, as well as the government of Hamid Karzai. Foreign militants are joining up with this reconstituted Taliban, just as they once were lured to Afghanistan by Osama bin Laden and the holy warriors of al-Qaida -- just as they have been drawn to Iraq. "Foreign fighters from, amongst others, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya and China are once again using Afghanistan as a battleground for their interpretation of global jihad," says the Senlis Council's latest report, released last week. There is the "import of tactics perfected in Iraq." These include suicide bombs and roadside bombs aimed at civilians as well as national and international forces In a worst-case scenario for the future, the research group envisions "a wholesale import of terrorist tactics and methodologies from Iraq. Seemingly inexhaustible supplies of martyrs permeate the country, indiscriminately attacking public spaces, military forces and the institutions of state." Besides the military's inability to pacify the country and subdue the Taliban, Western development and reconstruction money has been scarce. The opium poppy crop is again a mainstay of the Afghan economy, and there is deep disagreement among allies over what to do about it. Yet, as the presidential campaign careens toward an early winnowing with a front-loaded schedule of primaries, barely a word is uttered about the approaching disaster in Afghanistan. Democrats squabble about which of them will draw down the most troops from Iraq. Republicans attempt to best one another with their bellicose posturing about Iran, falling into line with this latest Bush administration fixation. The prospect of war consuming the entire Middle East seems not to trouble them. Our government stood accused in the years leading to 9/11 of ignoring or at least failing to respond adequately to the gathering danger in Afghanistan. That history could repeat itself so soon is a chilling indictment. Cocco writes for the Washington Post Writers Group. Contact her at mariecocco @ washpost.com. A more detailed report with graphs etc can be read on the Afghan thread Page 329.