Afghan President Hamid Karzai is getting weaker over time, and the Taliban are getting stronger, according to Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Matthews says that there will be a lull in the winter, but insurgent operations will pick up in the spring. As NATO allies draw down (many have announced their intention to leave the country), the US will likely need more troops to replace the departing European ones and to confront the growing insurgent challenge, she says. She does not think Afghanistan will emerge as a political issue in the next presidential race.
A recent CNN poll found that only 35% of Americans support the US military mission in Afghanistan, and 63% oppose it. Even among Republicans, where there is a slight majority in favor, some 44% oppose the war! And, 56% of Americans think the war is going badly. Since Americans like a winner, that statistic is perhaps the most deadly for the Obama administration and the Pentagon. As recently as March, 2010, the country was evenly divided and a majority thought that the war was going well. But note that March was just after the Marjah campaign in Helmand province, which created a press image of activity and progress, and there was talk about a big offensive in Qandahar. But Marjah was not the quick victory Americans had hoped for and the Qandahar campaign is a far subtler and less dramatic affair than had been envisioned last spring.
But in postmodern warfare, it doesn’t seem to matter if the public supports the war or not.
Meanwhile, discouraging news that in Baghlan Province some 10 insurgents have gone back and forth between peace talks and rejoining the insurgency. Failure of the government to follow through on promises made to the fighters accounts for their rejoining the opposition.
In a recent paper at Chatham House, Kate Clark argues that lack of social justice and bad government policy are driving the increasing insurgency.