Yesterday morning in Kabul, a sports utility vehicle traveling on a busy commercial street detonated explosives hidden in the car as it approached the Indian Embassy. The suicide bomber killed 17 people and three Indian paramilitary guards were wounded by shrapnel. Hours later, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and specified that the Indians were the target.
The Taliban’s suicide attack on India, who was also attacked by the Pakistan-based, al Qaeda-sympathizing Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in Mumbai this past November, comes at the same time that President Barack Obama is trying to convince the American people that the Taliban is not a threat that merits the resources necessary to defeat it.
This was not always the Obama administration’s view. Just this past March, when announcing his New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama explained: “Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban — or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged — that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”
The White Paper produced by the White House at the time also concluded that preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan would require “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.” As the Washington Post reported yesterday senior military commanders understood that this sentence meant U.S. and NATO forces would have to change focus from killing insurgents to a full out counterinsurgency effort. The military knew that this would almost certainly need more boots on the ground. But, according to the Post, the civilians in the Obama administration thought they could get away with protecting America on the cheap:
“It was easy to say, ‘Hey, I support COIN,’ because nobody had done the assessment of what it would really take, and nobody had thought through whether we want to do what it takes,” said one senior civilian administration official who participated in the review, using the shorthand for counterinsurgency.
But when Gen. Stanley McChrystal returned with a tactical battle plan that requires an additional 40,000 U.S. troops on top of the 68,000 who are already there, the Obama administration began furiously backtracking. Now that the cost of defeating the Taliban is higher than the civilians in the Obama administration originally thought, all of a sudden President Obama sees “a role for Taliban in Afghanistan’s future.”
Heritage Senior Research fellows Lisa Curtis and Jim Phillips conclude:
If the Obama Administration chooses to deny its field commander’s request for more troops and instead seeks to engage Taliban leaders in negotiations with the vain hope that these militants will break from their al-Qaeda allies, the results would likely be disastrous. … President Obama must take the long view and avoid shortsighted policies that undermine U.S. friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan while encouraging America’s enemies.