Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Growing Debate over Afghanistan Withdrawal

The success of the SEAL raid that executed Osama bin Laden has spawned a number of what we might call "blowback" debates - as in, debates that weren't supposed to erupt in the aftermath.  One, of course, has been the debate in the US over whether the US ought to maintain an alliance with what appears to be a dysfunctional ally: Pakistan.  The other is the flip side: the debate raging in Pakistan as to whether it ought to accept the humiliation of having US forces so blatantly violate its sovereignty by coptering commandos into Abbottabad and not bothering to notify the Pakistani government ahead of time.  The Guardian has reported (as relayed by Juan Cole) however, that the gnashing of teeth by Pakistani officials over this matter is for show, because years ago, George Bush and former Pakistani premier Pervez Musharraf made a deal whereby Pakistan would allow the  US to take out al-Qaeda leaders by means of such raids, with the understanding that the Pakistani government would make a show of outrage in the aftermath in order to mollify their outraged public.  If that's what's playing out now, and a Pakistani public that was seething with anti-American sentiment even before the OBL execution get wind of it, I can't help thinking that the Zardari government is playing with fire . . . or perhaps, with a firecracker that may be about to blow up in its face.

But today, much of the debate in the US is about Afghanistan - and specifically, the assertion that as the US went into Afghanistan to eliminate al-Qaeda's leadership, and as that leadership has been decapitated with the Abbottabad raid, then isn't this the time to wind down the US's Afghan adventure - already the longest war in US history?  I point you to major stories on this issue in the CSM, the NY Times, and the WaPo, where the various pro's and con's are specified, along with their champions.

But for my money, Sen. John Kerry's point bears emphasizing:
 “Make no mistake, it is fundamentally unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight.”

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