Monday, December 7, 2009

TBA: Gen. Petraeus Supports the President's Plan

On "Thus Blogged Anderson," there is a pithy post that quotes Gen. Petraeus responding to another blogger who asked his assessment of the Afghan/al-Queda strategy outlined in President Obama's West Point speech. Read the whole post -- but I will quote the most important sentence in the General's statement:

"The President's policy establishes a clear mission (on which Secretary Gates will elaborate in his testimony) and provides the resources to accomplish it."

I fully endorse Anderson's commentary:

"Now, all the Republicans who acted like it was a Constitutional duty to defer to Petraeus will ... um ... completely ignore this."

As the three of you who listened to Kamikaze and me on MPB's "A Closer Look" know, I think the President has made a wise decision to resume the important (and long-neglected during the Bush Administration's second term) fight against al-Queda in Afghanistan. It's not "another Vietnam" to try to disable an organization that has successfully launched attacks on American soil. It has a horrible cost, but I don't see how we can just walk away.

Before the West Point speech, the Economist ran an excellent article on Pakistan which noted:

"Underpinning the [Pakistani] army’s reluctance to go after the Afghan Taliban, whose leaders are said to reside in Pakistan’s city of Quetta, has been its belief that America and NATO will fail in Afghanistan. . . . . Pakistani security officials in Islamabad, well-versed in Mr Obama’s dithering over troop levels and the wavering of his European allies, think the alliance could quit Afghanistan in a year or two. The army must feel vindicated."

That's exactly why I don't think we should give any timetable for withdrawal. It undermines our attempts to convince Pakistan (and those elements of the Taliban who are willing to listen) that al-Queda will not win by running out the clock.

At the same time -- and just as the President himself has stressed -- in the final analysis, the police action on the Afghan-Pakistani border must be the tail; the dog is an international effort to achieve consensus among all -- including the Pashtuns on both sides of that border and yes, the Taliban -- that international terrorism cannot be harbored and protected.

And while Pakistan's military and intelligence community is skeptical of a US-led military victory, they believe that an internationalist diplomatic strategy can succeed. Again, The Economist:

"Pakistan is urging America to accept what it sincerely believes: that NATO’s strategy in Afghanistan, even if reinforced by the 40,000 extra troops requested of Mr Obama, will fail. Instead, Pakistani generals and diplomats argue with increasing confidence, America must seek a high-level political settlement with its Taliban enemies. And Pakistan wants a hand in this, thereby reasserting its influence over Afghanistan’s affairs, to India’s cost. According to a senior Pakistani official in Islamabad, some steps have already been taken. 'We’ve already been talking to the Taliban,' he said. 'If the US helps the process, some arrangements can be worked out for political reconciliation.'"

That is exactly why President Obama can succeed where President Bush failed: we now have a foreign/military strategy that has an international, instead of a unilateral, focus. For all our sakes, let's hope he does so.

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