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“Medic, Medic, Medic” is a battlefield cry every warrior who’s been to hell and back will never forget. It means a brother is down, and the widow-maker is close at hand. A call that these days, unfortunately, is heard too frequently in Afghanistan.

So far, 40 American warriors have died, and almost 400 have been banged up in that war-ravaged country, where our troops on the ground are clay pigeons stuck in a terrible minefield. Every day their Taliban and al-Qaida stalkers get stronger as supporters in China, Iran and Pakistan send them better weapons, and the supposedly pro-USA Afghan government keeps releasing POWs who openly say that as soon as they’re out of the slammer, they’re off to try to kill more Yanks. They and their Pakistani cohorts learn our tactics by trial and error, carefully figuring out how to ratchet up the pain exactly as they did in the past two centuries with the Brits and the Soviets.

Our enemy’s strategy is stone simple: to make us bleed at a rate of attrition the American people won’t tolerate. And have no doubt that our fanatic opponents are right this moment putting together the same cunning techniques to the same deadly end as the Vietnamese and Somalian rebels before them.

Sadly, they also have the same good shot at scoring, and, in fact, they already almost did during the flawed Operation Anaconda. Since the U.S. military’s inception, its senior leaders have seldom learned from the past, so it should be no big surprise that unless “43″ and his national-security crew apply some out-of-the-box thinking and dust off the lessons-learned file, they’re about to lead our soldiers smack into the middle of another mother-of-all-pasture-pies.

Because this time around, we won’t be able to lie and say “we won” or “the mission is complete” and pull out our troops the way we did in Vietnam and Somalia, and after the so-called Afghani freedom fighters – including Osama bin Laden and his merry terror band – clobbered the Soviets.

Instead, we’ve got to stand tall and do for Afghanistan what we did for Germany and Japan after World War II and Eastern Europe after the Berlin wall came tumbling down. George W. Bush’s implied objectives – to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world and prevent Afghanistan from returning to Taliban-terrorist-state status – were on target. We need to honor the long-term commitment we made to provide stability, reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

The spoiler is that our American soldiers are down in the Afghan mud, hunting and being hunted by crazies who believe that if they can pull off a repeat of Mogadishu and then flash pictures around the world of dead Americans being dragged through some dusty village, we’ll run. And while we won’t cut after the first such atrocity – “43″ is made of sterner stuff than “42″ – we will after the 10th or 20th. Remember “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

Right now, Afghanistan is going downhill faster than an out-of-gear Abrams tank. Each day, with the warlords acting increasingly like Mafia dons in a Chicago turf war, there’s more instability. The peacekeeping effort is now mainly limited to around the capital; things are so bad that our Special Forces warriors secure the Afghan president because he can’t trust his own people.

For sure, more peacekeeping troops are needed, and they need to be spread across the land. But they shouldn’t be American boys. If our combat troops stay in their muddy-boots role, they’re just going to continue to be moving targets. So every U.S. combat soldier should be pulled out as soon as possible, and U.S. support should be limited to aircraft, intell, logistics, dollars and nation-building resources and expertise – making an international nation-building program happen.

Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey must step in and provide the ground peacekeeping muscle – Muslims helping their Muslim brothers.

Only then will the bleeding stop, and only then will we be able to deliver on our promises and show that we’re not a nation of born-again crusaders, but a country dedicated to bringing peace and prosperity to the Arab people and, by extension, to the world.

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