The NYT says that President Barack Obama is reconsidering his plan to greatly increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan, and to be suffering “buyer’s remorse” for sending 21,000 more troops there soon after his inauguration and before a proper policy review. The article suggests a stark difference of opinion between vice president Joe Biden (who has the most foreign policy experience of anyone in the administration) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Biden is said to favor fewer US troops and a focus on al-Qaeda in the Pakistani badlands. Clinton is afraid the Taliban will take back over Afghanistan and invite al-Qaeda back in there.
At the moment, US policy toward Afghanistan consists of several levels:
- This includes working to improve the civilian bureaucracy
As well as training up 400,000 military troops and police
This multi-level approach is a disaster. You can’t do development aid very effectively in a country beset by guerrilla violence. Moreover, counter-insurgency requires a legitimate, effective Afghan partner that can compete with the Taliban and their allies for Afghan hearts and minds. And, if counter-terrorism is really the goal, then you don’t need a 60,000-man army in a country notoriously inhospitable to foreign armies.
The Obama administration seems to be considering whether these four levels can be usefully unentangled.
In particular, incumbent president Hamid Karzai’s clumsy attempt to steal the election and his continued seeming inability really to take charge in the country he de jure rules, appears to have provoked the Obama team to wonder whether they could in fact work with Karzai.
Personally, I think Biden is right and that if the administration will bet on him, they’d put us 2 or 3 years ahead of the curve.
I have for some time been saying that I can’t imagine that what most Pashtuns really want is to have more US troops patrolling their villages.
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