Obama in Afghanistan

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama held consultations Saturday in Kabul with Afghan government officials. He discussed the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country. I heard him on television at one point pledging to defeat the Taliban.

Aljazeera is showing footage of him addressing US troops who are going wild for him, and shooting hoops in the base gym. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Iraq, endorsed Obama’s plan for a withdrawal US troops from Iraq. Although al-Maliki said he was not choosing up sides in the presidential race, it seems clear that he’d be much more comfortable with Obama.

CBS reports on the trip, which included a stop at the provincial eastern Pushtun city of Jalalabad. I was impressed that Obama got out of the capital.

Violence against NATO troops in Afghanistan is up 40% in 2008 over 2007, and more civilians were killed in the first half of 2008 than in all of 2007. AP has more.

The Observer’s editorial on the situation in Afghanistan points out that the poppy crop this year will be a bumper one, that the Afghanistan government is riddled with corruption, that billions in foreign aid have made little difference (and that they may have been embezzled), and that more foreign troops in the country is unlikely to be the solution.

Remnants of the old Taliban met recently. They are making a united front in the Pushtun areas against outsiders.

Foreign radical vigilantes have been flooding into Afghanistan.

Check out Barnett Rubin’s recent entries on Afghanistan.