Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Is It Good For?

Ambassador Trentino:  I am willing to do anything to prevent this war.
Rufus T. Firefly:  It's too late. I've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield. 
 -- The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup
With all the fighting going on in Washington, recall that straight and gay men and women are risking their lives in a real war in Afghanistan.  Last Thursday, President Obama tried to appear upbeat as he spoke to the press after release of the annual strategic review of the war, but there were plenty of caveats.  Obama said that there has been "significant progress," but "this continues to be a difficult endeavor."  He asserted that the war is “on track” toward achieving its military and political goals, but acknowledged that that progress was coming “slowly and at a very high price” for the Americans fighting there.  The report's assessment maintained that Obama's troop surge has "arrested" the "momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years," but cautioned that "these gains remain fragile and reversible."

David Corn writes in Obama's Afghan Tightrope Walk, that the President has put himself in a difficult position by "selling the war as critical for US national security, while assuring the public that the end game will begin soon."  In terms of the latter, Obama tried to minimize our efforts as merely trying to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, rather than nation build, with the ultimate goal of handing the job over to the Afghans by 2014.  But, as Patrick Cockburn reports, according to a recent CIA assessment, large parts of Afghanistan are in danger of falling to the Taliban, and Pakistan continues to provide the Taliban secret support by allowing them to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven.  Corn notes that the so-called minimalist approach outlined by Obama and Secretary Gates, includes the daunting task of establishing functioning local governments in nearly 400 districts to counter the Taliban, and "is still costing the United States over $100 billion a year and entailing the deployment of well over 100,000 troops."  It really isn't minimalist at all.


Post a Comment