Thursday, October 8, 2009


Is anybody besides me scratching his or her head these days over reports about Afghanistan? What does this mean:

President Obama is prepared to accept some Taleban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future and is unlikely to favour a large influx of new US troops being demanded by his ground commander, a senior official said tonight.

Mr Obama appears to have been swayed in recent days by arguments from some advisers, led by Vice-President Joe Biden, that the Taleban do not pose a direct threat to the US and that there should be greater focus on tackling al-Qaeda inside Pakistan.

The official, speaking anonymously to the press about Mr Obama’s internal discussions – a tactic that is causing dismay among some senior military officials – said the president’s final decision on his war strategy and troop levels is still at least two weeks away.

Yet if Mr Obama fails to dispatch at least a significant number of the 40,000 troops requested by General Stanley McChystal, he will have ignored the wishes of his own ground commander and will face fierce attacks from Republicans back home. [...]

Mr Obama, who is now holding his ground commander’s official request for up to 40,000 more troops in his hands, has spent the past 48 hours focused on that central question: whether the Taleban poses a direct threat to America. He is keeping his cards close to his chest but appears to be striving for a middle ground strategy between Mr Biden’s and General McChrystal’s, with the possibility of sending a smaller number of troops to help train the Afghan army.

General McChrystal, together with Republicans and some moderate Democrats, insists that a full counter-insurgency strategy is the only option to avoid losing the war in Afghanistan, and that defeat will lead to the return of the terror network. Mr Obama’s lengthy reassessment of that strategy – which he announced in March – is triggering increased misgivings inside the military.

I'll admit that I don't really understand our foreign policy these days. But I thought the whole point of being in Afghanistan was to root out Al-Qaeda operations and support, and I thought the Taliban were a crucial supplier of much of that support. Have things really changed, to the point where we're ready to welcome the Taliban as potential allies in a future, stabilized Afghanistan?

From my admittedly uniformed perspective, it seems like any talk about putting a chair at the negotiations table for the Taliban is premature, to say the least; and I can't understand the reluctance within the Obama administration to take General McChrystal's advice and troop requests seriously. Have there been stunning developments I've missed over the past year or so? Has Al-Qaeda been routed from Afghanistan, and moved on to Pakistan? Is the sudden shift in focus from Afghanistan to Pakistan merely the next stage in the development of the coveted or possibly mythical Trans-Afghan Pipeline? Or is the nation's war-weariness and the need to bring things in Afghanistan to a conclusion, if not a victory, driving our latest endeavors?

Somebody who knows more about this, please enlighten me.


Anonymous said...

It is not usual and customary for Americans to spell the word 'favor' as 'favour'. It IS usual and customary for those that quote others to cite the reference of a quote. Am interested in authentication. Thanks!

Red Cardigan said...

Um, anonymous, the story is from the British press--the UK Times, in fact, as you can see if you click the link above the quote. As they say, a senior administration official was speaking to them anonymously--so unless UK Times reporters are fabricating the whole thing, I'd tend to think that they turned a spoken quote in to written words; hence the British spelling of favor.

If you are reading via Google Reader or some other feed service, you may not see the blockquote formatting which indicates that I am, in fact, quoting the source in the link. The only way I know of to get authentication as to this quote would be to contact the UK Times and ask them if they'd be willing to give you the name of the anonymous source in the story--something I'm afraid an insignificant blogger such as myself would be wholly unable to get them to divulge.

Anonymous said...


There is no reason (for me) to believe that this column is insignificant.

KC said...

I don't know why the administration thinks the way it does. I don't think we've routed al-Qaeda at all. We've disrupted them and prevented them from having a safe haven. If we allow the Taliban in to negotiate, it's like allowing al-Qaeda to the table as well.

I just can't believe what's going on. I say this even with my husband headed there in the next couple of months.