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(Photo via lakerae's photostream on Flickr.  Some amazing shots of children in Afghanistan here — worth taking a bit of time to browse through them.  These kids are all so beautiful, so much like my own child, and yet…their lives are so much more difficult, so much more scary, than hers.  Thinking about what it must be like to be a parent there is a tough thing to do.  Thinking about it in the context of a resurgent Taliban?  Especially if you have daughters?  Unbelievably difficult.)

The truth is that these children in Afghanistan live with some fairly brutal reality every single day of their lives.  And it is well past time that we all faced the fact that the mistakes the Bush Administration has made — and continues to make — in the region are not helping.  From the NYTimes:

But it also suggested a widening spiral of insecurity in Afghanistan, which had nearly 140 suicide bombings last year, including in Kabul, making the conflict and tactics here increasingly reminiscent of the chaotic struggle in Iraq.

Critics have charged that the Iraq war has precluded the United States from sending sufficient forces to Afghanistan. Concerned about a spring Taliban offensive, the United States has increased its force in Afghanistan to about 26,000. More than 20,000 troops from other NATO nations are also deployed there.

The scenes that Mr. Cheney flew over on his way in and out of Bagram — the devastation outside the gate and the bombed-out landscape of Kabul — was a reminder of how far the reality of Afghanistan is from the goals that President Bush set just short of five years ago, in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute. At the time, Mr. Bush repeatedly invoked the memory of Gen. George C. Marshall, the man behind the reconstruction that followed World War II, in expressing confidence that a “stable government” and a “national army” would help to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

But in testimony on Tuesday in front of the Senate armed services committee, the new director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, painted a grim picture of what he called a “pivotal year for Afghanistan,” in which the country’s leaders would have to “confront pervasive drug cultivation and trafficking, and, with NATO and the United States, arrest the resurgence of the Taliban.”

Mr. Cheney’s mission was to figure out how to bolster the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the NATO force, and to try to ease an openly hostile relationship between Mr. Karzai and another American ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Mr. Karzai has argued that many of the attacks in Afghanistan have been launched from Pakistan. Mr. Musharraf has said Mr. Karzai is looking for a scapegoat.

Mr. McConnell’s assessment was grim: “Long-term prospects for eliminating the Taliban threat appear dim, so long as the sanctuary remains in Pakistan, and there are no encouraging signs that Pakistan is eliminating it. "

What a mess.  What a horrible mess — not just for Afghanistan, but the entire region.