Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking a stand on Afghanistan

Good news from the NYT today, if reports are true about Barack taking a good long second look at the military strategy there, and potentially settling on a strategy more focused on rooting out and preventing the resurgence of Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan.

First, let's be honest. Can you imagine George Bush taking a second look at anything, let alone signaling to the media that a policy he previously signed off on just might not be working and needs a new approach. Didn't we have 8 years of stubborn refusal to concede mistakes and no-way-no-how second guessing in public remarks by senior officials? What a wonderful, refreshing change by Obama from the horse-doo style of his predecessor.

As far as the outcome of these deliberations is concerned, we clearly are in a wait and see period where there are so many trial balloons being lofted that it feels like Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It will take guts to face down the military's preference for more troops, more tanks, more airplanes, more, more, more, so we can dig in for the good war to rebuild democracy and stability in another failed state. (not !)

Hillary was quoted in the same NYT article suggesting that, if we pull out and leave Afghanistan to the Taliban, Al Qaeda would surely follow and prosper there. Good sound bite, but, really, what are the facts on the ground? I remember a graphic from the NYT not too many months ago, which charted the geographic areas in the country that were under the 'control' of the government vs. the insurgency. My recollection is that approx 70-80% of the country had already been 'conquered' or totally destabilized by the Taliban, so the battle, it seems to me, is about maintaining the government in the 20% they now hold and making incremental gains against the insurgents month by month, year by year. Or, more realistically, to focus on what we are really there to do, which is keep Al Qaeda on the run or destroy it wherever we can find it, putting both Afghanistan and Pakistan on notice that special forces and the drones will descend upon any region known to harbor the terrorists.

Biden has it right. Hope he prevails.

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