President Barack Obama met Wednesday afternoon for 3 hours with his advisers on the Afghanistan war, including VP Joe Biden and, by teleconference, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He is said not to have made any decisions as yet about a new strategy or increased troop levels, both asked for by Gen. McChrystal. Some of those voiced demanding that Obama make a precipitate decisioin on how to proceed were the same ones, like John McCain, who rushed the US thoughtlessly into a six-year quagmire in Iraq.
According to VOA, some experts believe that the US needs a different strategy for each of the country’s major regions. Those interviewed by VOA (below) suggest that some insurgents might be amenable to negotiations:
Obama got support from the secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on his deliberate (some say way too slow) policy review on Afghan strategy. Rasmussen agrees that strategy is more important than sheer numbers.
And Fred Kaplan at Slate argues that Obama should ask two questions. The first is whether President Hamid Karzai is capable of attracting the allegiance of the Afghan people, so as to be an effective leader and ally of the US. The second is whether a long, costly, and potentially lethal counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan is really worth the cost to the US.
But any Obama “surge” in Afghanistan is going to meet severe opposition from some members of the government of president Hamid Karzai. Aljazeera English reports on a speech by powerful warlord Ismail Khan of Herat, who serves as Energy and Water Minister in the Karzai government, in which he attacks Gen. Stanley McChrystal as ignorant about Afghanistan and condemns the notion of the US sending yet more American troops to Afghanistan.
As I pointed out on Monday, Ismail Khan is furious about the deteriorating security that nearly allowed his assassination, and said that the US will meet a more decisive defeat in Afghanistan than did Russia. And he’s a Tajik member of the Karzai government, which is allied with the US! He is threatening to withdraw from the cabinet.
Ismail Khan says that a Shura Council of Warlords should be formed to direct the country. Afghan president Hamid Karzai presaged this policy by gathering around himself 1980s warlords (then all backed by the US) such as Rashid Dostam (Uzbek from Mazar), Karim Khalili (Shiite Hazara), Muhammad Fahim (Sunni Tajik or Persian speaker) and Ismail Khan himself (Sunni Tajik of Herat and client of Iran). What Ismail Khan cannot understand is that bloodthirsty warlords tore the country apart in the 1990s, and few want them back.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Defense Ministry insists that security problems in northern provinces such as Kunduz and Baghlan have been dealt with and there is an improvement, especially now that local people are vigilant against the Taliban.
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