Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged in a major foreign policy speech on Wednesday that:
‘ “Today we and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban, who renounces Al Qaeda, lays down their arms, and is willing to participate in the free and open society that is enshrined in the Afghan constitution . . . We understand that not all those who fight with the Taliban support Al Qaeda, or believe in the extremist policies the Taliban pursued when in power.”‘
It is a very good sign that Clinton thinks there are Taliban worth talking to, and understands that you can’t conflate opposition to the Karzai government with being al-Qaida. In fact there does not seem to be much al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, cautioned that there is hard fighting ahead in Afghanistan. He sees a wind of 18 months to 2 years during which the US and its NATO allies must reestablish as much security as possible even as it trains tens of thousands of new Afghan troops. The window is probably how long the Obama administration expects there to be support for the Afghan war in the US Congress.
Update: Ann Jones at Tomdispatch is skeptical about the information coming out about Afghanistan and says Kabul is now under siege from security measures.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US troops in Afghanistan, expressed surprise at Taliban strength in the north and west of the country, though he had expected the mission in the Pushtun south to be grim. Note that the trouble in Kunduz to the north and in the west is still coming largely from the Pushtun ethnic group, which predominates in southern Afghanistan but has pockets of popuation in the north and west.
If Gen. McChrystal’s plan to greatly expand the size of the Afghan military goes through, he acknowledges it will require the international community to pitch in billions annually to pay for the expanded army. Afghanistan itself couldn’t afford it.
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