Afghanistan Remains a Question Mark Even as First Lady Laura Bush Visits

The country remains a major question mark as President Bush's term winds down.

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First lady Laura Bush has had few critics during her nearly eight years in the White House. She has handled her duties with grace and charm despite her husband's nose dive in the polls.

However, the president and his advisers decided to use her as a symbol of progress and to whip up more support for war-torn Afghanistan. Over the weekend, Mrs. Bush made a surprise visit to the country, her third time there.

The problem was that while some advances had been made in the past six years, the Associated Press reported enduring signs of violence and destruction during her short stay there.

After 9/11, the president had the nation behind him when he declared in New York City: "The people who did this will be hearing from us soon." The need for retaliation was clear.

After driving the Taliban leaders out of the country at least temporarily, Bush could not wait to attack Iraq. Former aides documented that he was itching to go to war despite warnings from intelligence sources that the job was not complete in Afghanistan.

By most accounts, the country is still in turmoil. President Karzai has apparently lost the confidence of many of his constituents. Poppies are the main cash crop, and destruction of poppy fields has helped a resurging Taliban win over poor and angry farmers.

The administration has pleaded with our friends and allies to help revitalize the country. But the pace has been slow.

Laura Bush's visit served as a reminder that the progress has been limited. And it was another reminder that we have not caught or killed Osama bin Laden, the main architect of 9/11, despite the manpower and the many millions of dollars spent in the effort.

With only a few months left in Bush's second term, the outlook in Afghanistan is still a major question mark.