Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More on Obama White House discussions on Afghanistan

This report from the NYT shows some of the hard thinking and discussion going on in the Obama administration's calculations about Afghanistan (and Pakistan).  There's a major crap-shoot here = If the US were to increase focus on al-Qaeda and give the Taliban a bit more breathing space, would that lead to the Taliban linking up with al-Qaeda to provide them a safe haven (again) in Afghanistan?  Or might the Taliban then try to discourage al-Qaeda from nesting in their country, if only to keep the American and NATO foreigners from continuing to occupy their country?

We won't know the answer to that unless Obama adopts a strategy to split the two.  And it's at least somewhat heartening to see that thoughtful people around Obama seem unwilling to lump al-Qaeda and the Taliban together as "Islamic extremists" - a tactic often resorted to by Bush and his people.  They are indeed different entities, with mostly different purposes and ideologies.  But now, the Obama people need to take the next step = to come to grips with the complexity of the Taliban, to see them not as some monolithic entity, but as an internally variegated group.

Even with such an awakening though, it seems to me that defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan - or at least defeating that portion of them who consist of resistance fighters opposed to foreign presence - will forever be impossible for the US to accomplish.  So, sending a major "Surge" of troops into Afghanistan now would be to send more young Americans to senseless deaths.  And it's now being reported that McChrystal wanted to ask for 50,000 more - which would have almost doubled the US troop presence - but was talked down to "only" 40,000. 

I sense that Obama is not going to go there.  Still, he will likely make eloquent assurances of his resolve to stay committed to Afghanistan for the long haul, and to not abandon it as it was abandoned by the US when Bush launched his Iraq expedition, or earlier, after an earlier generation of mujahhedin had expelled the previous foreign occupier - the Soviet Union.

So, as I've said before, more young Americans will be going there, and more will be returning in body bags.

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