Friday, November 12, 2010

Some Plain Sense on Afghanistan

CNN reports that an expert bipartisan task-force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (you can't get more policy mainstream than that) and chaired by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger is recommending that, unless real signs of progress are forthcoming, the US should make drastic cuts to its troop levels in Afghanistan, along with a change of mission to counter-terror rather than counter-insurgency.  The report highlights that time and patience have grown short, and that the US is dealing with huge budget deficits and a sluggish economic recovery - factors that, by my lights, aren't getting nearly as much attention here as they deserve.

David Petraeus likely will not welcome this report .  He is, of course, the guru of counter-insurgency (COIN), as well as the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.  For weeks he's been waging an information war designed to "demonstrate" progress there,  hoping to undercut the Obama deadline of July 2011 and win himself more time to achieve "success."  The major newspapers have expressed some skepticism about Petraeus' "progress"; the McCain-Graham-Lieberman triumvirate, on the other hand, are touting it as the path to victory.  Notably, in his remarks of a couple of days ago in Kabul, McCain referred to the current "surge" - undoubtedly an intended allusion to the 2007-2008 "surge" in Iraq that, in his estimation, was the major reason for what he considers the American "victory" there.

McCain's calculus: the Surge worked in Iraq, but Obama opposed it then.  The Surge will work in Afghanistan, provided Obama doesn't pull the plug now.

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