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  • Shibboleths of the Afghanistan Debate

    Recent statements coming from the White House making distinctions between the Taliban and al-Qaeda and implying that the Taliban is somehow less inimical to U.S. interests are incongruous with developments on the ground, including a major suicide bombing in front of the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Thursday morning and another major bombing that killed at least 49 on the other side of the border in Peshawar, Pakistan. The back-to-back blasts straddling the border underscore the instability in the region and the need for President Obama to demonstrate decisiveness with his strategy for Afghanistan.

    If President Obama is seeking to better understand the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, he should listen to Bruce Riedel, an advisor who helped lay the foundations for his strategy toward the region earlier this year. In an October 8 interview on the dangers of delaying decision making on Afghanistan, Riedel says it is a “fairy tale” to think that the Taliban can be split off from al-Qaeda. Riedel further argues that the bar for determining whether the Taliban are willing to enter into serious negotiations with the U.S. should be whether they are willing to hand over Osama bin Laden.

    President Obama’s statement yesterday that he was not considering withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan was somewhat of a relief, but he needs to go further and be clear as to whether the U.S. is committed to ensuring it will not allow Afghanistan to return to the harsh Taliban rule of the 1990s. This would help clarify U.S. goals in the region for multiple audiences, not the least of which are Pakistani strategists who believe the Afghan Taliban represent their best chance for countering Indian influence in the country.

    The Pakistani foreign minister recently questioned Indian investment and aid to Afghanistan, saying, “They have to justify their interest. They do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do. So the level of engagement has to be commensurate with that.” His statements imply that Afghanistan is not a sovereign country and that Afghan leaders must accommodate their neighbors when deciding which countries they will allow to invest in their country.

    It is time for the U.S. to state its objectives in Afghanistan with clarity so that we can partner effectively with those who also are interested in Afghanistan’s long-term stability and confront with surety and strength those who oppose that goal.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Shibboleths of the Afghanistan Debate

    1. Robert , Mississippi says:

      Afghanistan reminds me of LBJ and Robert McNamara in the 60s thinking politics could run the Vietnam War. What happened was the TET offensive when thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars came out of the woodwork in a multipronged attack. Many lives were lost. I see the same thing happening in Afghanistan. I think Afghanistan will be Obama's desert like Iran was for Carter.

    2. Anita says:

      He will not withdraw our troops from that hell hole, he'll just wait & wait & wait until they're all killed then say "what's the use in sending more troops over there? They've already won!" Then he can get on with the owebama health plan. Right now that's his main goal other than killing the rest of our rights.

    3. Louis L Cesar F Levy says:

      Clever politics and Wise Military strategies are needed in Afghanistan. This space is more than strategic in the process of the shaping or re-shaping the geoplitics in a near future. What will soon take place is a dispositif of different forces that have to confront in a Major Conflict which has just started. Great Military strategists never obey the sovereign when he hobble his Army. On the other hand every wise and sincere sovereign see wide and opt for his country's good.

    4. Lwesson, Tejas says:

      Are the ever delightful duo, the Taliban and al-Qaeda our enemies or are they not? I think we have clearly said YES with blood, toil and treasure. Gen. Mc Crystal wants 40,000. Send in 80 thousand. Kick the two faced media out of the country and simply go to war. Let slip loose the dogs of war and crush them. Take a friendly houshold tip from Conan the Barbarian: Crush you enemies, see them driven before you and hear the laminations of their women. No seriously, use our forces that we can bring to use. The notion that we can buy their friendship is asking for a long protracted defeat. Either make war or leave. Afgans will respect brutal overwhelming force as their society seems at home with most simplistic ways unlike Iraqis who look like rocket scientists in comparison. Many in Afghanistan have had enough of the Taliban. Stabilizing the region will do more to put a change of mindset in both the irksome Iran and Muslim Nuclear Pakistan.

      Proof? The huge surge that should have been done in the very beginning in Iraq shows that you cannot have enough boots… in the field.

    5. Jerry from Chicago says:

      General McChrystal says he needs 40,000 more troops. Commander-in-Chief Obama says "Don't worry, we aren't going to be pulling any treoops out".

      Once again, Mr. Obama has written a check with his mouth that his ego won't allow him to cash.

      Obama could only criticize the Bush administration for not having an exit strategy for Iraq. According to Mr. Obama, Iraq was the 'wrong' war, but Afghanistan was the 'right' war. Well, nine months into his term, Mr. Obama is still fighting the wrong war and has no exit strategy for Iraq. Nor, it seems, does he have a strategy for winning the 'right' war in Afghanistan. And since winning seems out of the question, what exactly is his exit strategy for Afghanistan?

    6. Ben C, Ann Arbor, MI says:

      All this rhetoric is useless until the poppy fields are converted into another crop. Follow the money. The Taliban are funded by the heroin trade. Get rid of the source of funding and they go away. It really isn't hard to understand. Problem is: what can the farmers grow instead?

      Maybe there is a hidden agenda the White House Chicago mob doesn't want to publicize.

    7. K. Kaiser, WA says:

      Robert is right in the sense that Congress is behaving in the same manner as they did in Viet Nam. Commit the troops then pull the rug out from under them, insult them and leave them hanging.

      However regarding the Tet Offensive, the US did do well in its response but did not have the support or congressional fortitude to finish the job. If you read the reports of the VC leaders they almost lost the war as a result of Tet. They had committed major resources and were very weak at the end of the engagement. Our congress and leadership at that time however gave them time to regroup.

      Ken

      Battle Ground, WA

    8. R. Fred, Midlothian, says:

      I normally don't make comment, however, when I read Ben C."s entry from Ann Arbor, MI., I couldn't resist. My company has what can be the answer to Ben's question i.e. "What can Afghan farmers grow other than Poppy's"? Originally developed as a funding source to support the rescue of At Risk Kids, we have developed Hydroponic Farming techniques coupled with a "bio-mass" conversion process to produce renewable energy and clean water. We can grow vegetables and fruit 12 months a year (10 Plus yield) using 1/10th the water in a fraction of the space. Sec. Robert Gates et.al. says "we need civilian Ag Projects on the ground in Afghanistan now to follow any Military "Surge to Purge". My farmer father always said, "Once the land is cleared it needs to be planted and cultivated to keep the weeds out for maximum yield". If Gen. Stan will clear the land and buy us time, we will plant and grow food and water to feed the multitudes and help create an exciting new Mid East economy.

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