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Putting Out Fire -- With Gasoline?


U.S. soldiers in Kandahar on Sunday. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

Of all the foreign messes President Obama inherited, Afghanistan is the messiest.

Faced with a longstanding demand from top military brass for more troops there, Obama might well have chosen to hold off until he had a better sense of what our mission there should be.

But in his first major military decision yesterday, Obama decided to send up to 17,000 more troops into the fight, doubling the number of American combat brigades in the country.

His decision wasn't entirely a surprise. While he ran as an antiwar candidate when it came to Iraq, he's consistently been quite hawkish when it comes to Afghanistan. "When I am President," he declared on the campaign trail, "we will wage the war that has to be won." He spoke of "getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

In his announcement yesterday, Obama said he was responding to "urgent security needs" and that the "increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires."

But while Obama is undeniably right that the situation in Afghanistan has been neglected and is deteriorating, there's some reason to think that sending more troops there is not the answer -- and may just add fuel to the fire.

A recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for instance, concluded that sending in more troops was exactly what not to do. "The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban," the report said. "The best way to weaken, and perhaps divide, the armed opposition is to reduce military confrontations...

"After seven years of war, the international community has failed to create the conditions for a sustainable Afghan state."

Our best weapon, the report says, would be "a progressive and focused scaling down of combat troops on our own terms. This would neutralize the Taliban's appeals for Jihad against unbelieving foreign invaders, open up space for Afghan institutions and
political solutions, and allow us to focus our efforts on areas where we can still make a difference."

If the troop increase results in more Afghan civilian casualties, it could just make things worse.

Kim Barker writes in the Chicago Tribune: "No issue threatens to undermine the growing U.S. military mission in Afghanistan more than civilian casualties, which have turned more and more Afghans against international troops, created a rift between the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai and delivered Taliban insurgents an easy issue to exploit.

"The number of Afghan civilians killed in armed conflict jumped to a record 2,118 people last year, the UN said in a new report Tuesday. Insurgents killed 55 percent of the victims, but U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 39 percent, the report said.

"Of those, 552 were attributed to airstrikes."

Here's that U.N. report, showing a 40 percent increase in civilian casualties between 2007 and 2008.

Another report, from the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, concludes: "The international coalition in Afghanistan is losing public support, one fallen civilian at a time. Twenty billion US dollars in military expenditures each month and billions more in support operations and humanitarian aid still leaves the many civilians harmed by international troops with nothing. Since the initial US invasion in 2001, the lack of a clear, coordinated strategy to address civilian losses has been a leading source of anger and resentment toward military forces. A new BBC/ABC poll shows a 12 percentage point drop in Afghan support for the international presence since 2007 and a drop of 15 points from 2006. A once welcoming picture of the population has turned into scenes of frequent, widespread and sometimes violent protests over civilian deaths and a perceived lack of concern by international forces."

Karen DeYoung writes in The Washington Post: "President Obama has ordered the first combat deployments of his presidency, saying yesterday that he had authorized an additional 17,000 U.S. troops 'to stabilize a deteriorating situation' in Afghanistan.

"The new deployments, to begin in May, will increase the U.S. force in Afghanistan by nearly 50 percent, bringing it to 55,000 by mid-summer, along with 32,000 non-U.S. NATO troops. In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said that 'urgent attention and swift action' were required because 'the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda...threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border.'

"Taliban attacks and U.S. and NATO casualties last year, including 155 U.S. deaths, reached the highest levels of the seven-year war....

"[A] senior White House official said that no other deployment decisions will be made until the Obama administration completes a strategic review of the Afghan war in late March.

"Obama has said he wants to limit U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, and administration officials have spoken of a more 'regional' counterinsurgency strategy, including expanded assistance to Pakistan and diplomatic outreach to India, Iran, Russia and other neighboring countries."

Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller write in the Los Angeles Times: "Debate has raged for months about the possible effectiveness in Afghanistan of a 'surge,' the term used for the 2007 troop increase in Iraq that has been credited with helping stabilize that country.

"Military officials have been careful not to use that terminology for the current increase in Afghanistan, arguing that additional troops could be needed there for years. But senior Defense officials said that they believe they must quickly demonstrate results, roll back Taliban advances and bring some measure of stability.

"'These troops are going to help us counter Taliban territorial advances, deny safe havens and create security for Afghan civilians,' said a senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly."

Mark Thompson writes for Time: "Afghanistan became President Obama's war on Tuesday."

Helene Cooper writes in the New York Times: "Antiwar groups criticized Mr. Obama's decision even before the White House announced it.

"'The president is committing these troops before he's determined what the mission is,' said Tom Andrews, director of the coalition organization Win Without War. 'We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.'"

Jon Cohen blogs for The Washington Post that this was Obama's "first presidential decision without clear majority support.

"Most Americans consider winning in Afghanistan essential to success in the broader war against terrorism, but in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, barely more than a third (34 percent) said the number of U.S. military forces in that country should be increased. About as many would opt for a decrease (29 percent) or no change at all (32 percent)."

So, just how bad are things in Afghanistan?

The Jan. 31 cover of Newsweek called Afghanistan "Obama's Vietnam." John Barry and Evan Thomas wrote that "it seems that the war in Afghanistan is shaping up in all-too-familiar ways. The parallels are disturbing: the president, eager to show his toughness, vows to do what it takes to 'win.' The nation that we are supposedly rescuing is no nation at all but rather a deeply divided, semi-failed state with an incompetent, corrupt government held to be illegitimate by a large portion of its population. The enemy is well accustomed to resisting foreign invaders and can escape into convenient refuges across the border. There are constraints on America striking those sanctuaries. Meanwhile, neighboring countries may see a chance to bog America down in a costly war. Last, there is no easy way out.

"True, there are important differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam. The Taliban is not as powerful or unified a foe as the Viet Cong. On the other hand, Vietnam did not pose a direct national-security threat; even believers in the 'domino theory' did not expect to see the Viet Cong fighting in San Francisco. By contrast, while not Taliban themselves, terrorists who trained in Afghanistan did attack New York and Washington in 2001. Afghanistan has always been seen as the right and necessary war to fight—unlike, for many, Iraq....

"[W]hat is troubling is that no one in the outgoing or incoming administration has been able to say what the additional troops are for, except as a kind of tourniquet to staunch the bleeding while someone comes up with a strategy that has a chance of working. The most uncomfortable question is whether any strategy will work at this point."

Lara Jakes wrote for the Associated Press a few days after the Newsweek cover: "The top U.S. military officer cautioned Monday against comparing the Pentagon's renewed focus on Afghanistan to the Vietnam War, citing terrorism and a non-occupation strategy as 'dramatic differences' between the two conflicts.

"'Afghanistan is much more complex,' said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

William Dalrymple wrote in the New York Review of Books last month about "the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America's response to September 11: the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The situation here could hardly be more grim....

"Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all."

The neocons, not surprisingly, still see a military solution.

Frederick W. Kagan writes in Newsweek: "As in Iraq since 2006, the search is on for a middle-way strategy in Afghanistan that will achieve our minimal national-security requirements without forcing us to defeat a determined set of enemies and create a modern state. Unfortunately, as in Iraq, there is no such strategy."

By contrast, he writes: "There is considerable evidence, however, that effective counterinsurgency operations can render large areas extremely inhospitable to terrorist networks, destroying some and forcing others to leave. That was the result of the surge strategy implemented in Iraq in 2007 and 2008."

Meanwhile, a more balanced plan appears to be emerging from the White House.

Obama, who is headed to Ottawa tomorrow, sat down with Peter Mansbridge of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday. (Here's the video.)

"I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means. We're going to have to use diplomacy, we're going to have to use development," Obama said.

But when Mansbridge asked "Is Afghanistan still one winnable?" Obama replied: "Well, I think Afghanistan is still winnable, in the sense of our ability to ensure that it is not a launching pad for attacks against North America. I think it's still possible for us to stamp out al Qaeda to make sure that extremism is not expanding but rather is contracting. I think all those goals are still possible, but I think that as a consequence to the war on Iraq, we took our eye off the ball. We have not been as focused as we need to be on all the various steps that are needed in order to deal with Afghanistan.

"If you've got narco-trafficking that is funding the Taliban, if there is a perception that there's no rule of law in Afghanistan, if we don't solve the issue of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, then we're probably not going to solve the problem."

Ian Traynor Munich wrote in the Guardian that outlines of a new Afghanistan strategy were apparent at a security conference in Munich earlier this month. The strategy involves "scaling back the ambitions of George Bush in a shift which senior officials and diplomats described as a 'new realism'"

Craig Whitlock wrote from Munich: "President Obama's national security team gave a dire assessment Sunday of the war in Afghanistan, with one official calling it a challenge 'much tougher than Iraq' and others hinting that it could take years to turn around."

Indeed, Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube reported for NBC about Obama's meeting in late January with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "[I]n the Pentagon's 'tank,' the president specifically asked, 'What is the end game?' in the U.S. military's strategy for Afghanistan. When asked what the answer was, one military official told NBC News, 'Frankly, we don't have one.' But they're working on it."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 18, 2009; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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Comments

where is the acess to read all other comments to this column?

Posted by: tniederberger | February 18, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Armed Forces Radio needs to break out the old "I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish for our troopers. Ask the Russians.

Posted by: Patriot3 | February 18, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

By contrast, while not Taliban themselves, terrorists who trained in Afghanistan did attack New York and Washington in 2001.

the terrorists also trained in Hamburg, Germany and in Florida, USA.

Posted by: johannesrolf | February 18, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

As a faithful subscriber to THE NATION - a progressive publication - the strategy in place in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due for a top to bottom review. President Obama might be making a "chess move" by sending over more ground troops to root out Al Qaeda terror camps, but he runs the risk of becoming embroiled in a "no-win" fight.

It remains a mystery to me, why our government/military thinks it must engage a terror/ideological/illegal force. Shouldn't we use a police/sherrif/law enforcement task force?

Posted by: rmorris391 | February 18, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan could
reduce the need for calling in airstrikes, thereby reducing civilian casualties.

Posted by: matthahne | February 18, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I thought McCain knew how to catch bin Laden. When he was running for president he said that over and over. How come he won't share his plan? Maybe when he runs again in 2012?
Pentagon bloat = end of America.
The Republican refrain has the same old chorus: Be very afraid.
The real terrorists are on Wall Street and K Street. They stole my job and a lot of my life savings.
Petraeus wants to be president. No thanks.

Posted by: bdunn1 | February 18, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Though there may be few alternatives to the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan at this point, let's be aware of the fact that this new commitment of manpower and firepower will likely do little more than stabilize a bad situation. In the meantime, the monthly tab for our Middle Eastern misadventures hovers at $20 billion or so, at a time when the nation most needs those resources to address long-delayed and critical problems at home, including a complete overhaul of our health-care system and a monumental shift to a green-energy economy.
We may find in the end in fact that we crossed our own national Rubicon decades ago when first Carter, then Reagan and his Republican successors opted to continue ramping up our military spending, our global force structure, and of course our footprint in the Middle East while neglecting to adopt measures which would wean the nation off its addiction to imported oil (among other things).
And so it goes, as we walk with open eyes into that graveyard of empires in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.
J. Jones

Posted by: j9793 | February 18, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

President Obama probably thinks that it will be easier to subdue the original recipe Taliban over there compared to his difficulties thus far in trying to subdue the Republican Taliban inside the Beltway.

Posted by: Patriot3 | February 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Barack's sending troops to Afghanistan was in fact something he proposed before he was even nominated.

In a sense it is just more of Barack showing that he is the antithesis of Bush. Bush got into a fight in Afghanistan totally due to his own inattention to detail. In trying to find a way to score points by getting bin Laden, (on the Rumsfield cheap) he tried sending in special forces. Those presented the majority of Afghanistan's leaders a rallying point to coalesce upon, against the Taliban thugs trying to declare themselves the government of Afghanistan. Since all of the Taliban's authority arose from there being no real government to speak against them, and no major leader willing to risk assassination by being the first to stand up, the Taliban disolved and hot footed it back into their Pakistani "Schools" to hide.

The Taliban is about equivalent to the less well trained and less well organized Viet Cong military formations, but they haven't North Viet Nam, The Soviet Union, or China to back them. They DO have a lot of Islamic Arabic money, and access to Arabia for recruits, and the support of actual mainstream Sunni Clerics, and of course their Pakistani sanctuaries.

Curiously, we learned how to solve this type of militery situation in Viet Nam.

Drive the insurgents out into the wilderness and leave them to rot. Keep them from getting off military raids and escaping, and they will begin to wither.

At that point time and disaffection will degrade their ranks. Should some outside military leader, (like Vo Nguyen Giap) decide to stir things up by an offensive, they will stand up and get themselves gunned down.

That is where we stood at Tet of 1968, with the actual VC nearly destroyed. The Taliban can't expect any support from main force units from say Pakistan, and can again be driven out into the wilderness, where, like the VC, they will essentially wither away.

This particular war CAN be won, provided we have the Creighton Abrams to lead, the proper mix of forces, especially including support forces, to keep the Taliban away from the cities, and the political patience and will to stay the time it takes. We lost Viet Nam because Nixon lacked the political will and the moral fiber to stand and defend South Viet Nam. We lost because Nixon quit, and for no other reason.

Posted by: ceflynline | February 18, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan was the Soviet Union's Vietnam, Obama beware. In it's long history Afghanistan has never been successfully conquered or occupied and many have tried.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | February 18, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

First if all, this is not and never will be Obama’s war. This, and Iraq, are America’s war.

Obama's answer to the push from the Taliban is to play babysitter for civilians?

What we should be doing is escalating our confrontations with the Taliban, not hiding from them. It is, in no small part, how we brought Iraq back under control. Obama should be willing to listen to guys like Keane, Armstrong, Dwyer, and Kagan who put forth a strategy to turn Iraq around when so many, including Obama, were willing to abandon it to the thugs and Iranians.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | February 18, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Remember that the Taliban work for the Pakistani military and their objective is to take over Afganistan for the benefit of Pakistan. There are other terrorist groups in Pakistan who are also trained and armed by the Pakistani military and whose objective is to get India to give up Kashmir. Al Qaeda's objective has to be to take over the Pakistani government or in some other way acquire a nuclear weapon from Pakistan to use against the US. Al Qaeda does not care about Afganistan - thay have safe havens in Pakistan, and the thing that they want most, a nuclear weapon, is in Pakistan, not Afganistan. So our real objective should be to permanenetly separate Al Qaeda from Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Nothing else really matters.

Posted by: dickdata | February 18, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I second the comments of matthahne and j9793.

There is the immediate need to keep the road to Kandahar open - the fall of the capital would not be a good sign.

I have a problem with the statement "The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban." In case nobody remembers, the Taliban first took over in the 90s without the provocation of foreign troops, with the support of elements in Pakistan's ISSI and army.

In fact the statement appears to be a distortion of the text, which states "the presence of foreign troops is the most important factor in mobilizing support for the Taliban" which is something else. A recent interview on Fresh Air with the former NPR reporter who stayed on in Afghanistan to start an NGO suggests that the abuse of the population by Afghan police may be equally important.

While I admire the efforts of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, they lose some credibility if they attribute the combined $20B monthly cost of our combined regional adventures to Afghanistan alone, given that 60% of that is going into Iraq.

If you want an accurate picture of the risks and options in Afghanistan, do a web search for the latest interviews with David Kilcullen, a guy with a PhD who has studied insurgencies in history and in the field for 30 years, as well as serving in the Australian army and advising G. Petreaus.

Posted by: j2hess | February 18, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Obama's answer to the push from the Taliban is to play babysitter for civilians?

What we should be doing is escalating our confrontations with the Taliban, not hiding from them. It is, in no small part, how we brought Iraq back under control. Obama should be willing to listen to guys like Keane, Armstrong, Dwyer, and Kagan who put forth a strategy to turn Iraq around when so many, including Obama, were willing to abandon it to the thugs and Iranians.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist
****

A few points:

Military experts are largely agreed that providing security for civilians is the key to keeping the Taliban from getting a serious hold on the population. And providing civilian security was a key part of the "surge" strategy in Iraq - moving troops out of remote bases to police post in Baghdad.

Chasing insurgents around the countryside never worked in Vietnam or Iraq.

I don't know Armstrong and Dwyer, but I read Keane and Kagan's surge plan. It's main contribution was a troop rotation schedule allowing the increase in troop levels. It missed all the key changes in strategy, operations, and tactics that produced the tactical (not strategic) success to date.

I'm glad to read that you are a sharpshooter; perhaps next you could work on your target selection?

Posted by: j2hess | February 18, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Demand Peace!

There's no future in war.

Posted by: motorfriend | February 18, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"We lost Viet Nam because Nixon lacked the political will and the moral fiber to stand and defend South Viet Nam. We lost because Nixon quit, and for no other reason."

The above is just plain delusional.

Posted by: bdunn1 | February 18, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Froomkin must be going nuts... Obama is sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan and he can't figure out a way how to blame it all on Bush..

Posted by: sovine08 | February 18, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan eats empires. Obama and Gates are volunteering us to be next. Interesting to read some accounts of the Soviet Army during its epic fail in-country. The big Q is: who is arming the new insurgency?

Posted by: roboturkey | February 18, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't realize that listening to the commanders on the ground means listening to people (on the ground and in the Pentagon) who live for war and more war and whose promotions come so much more quickly during war.

And Obama doesn't realize how many of those flag rank officers and colonels love war because when they retire from active duty they so frequently end up working for military contractors who depend upon war to sell their products faster — or as consultants who can steer their former comrades to favored sources.

Certainly, most officers are not primarily motivated by venality, but the kinds of things mentioned do come with the turf.

Finally, Obama should realize that many of the non-military who would have us out of wars are just as smart if not more so than the militarists in uniform or their constant backers (like the neocons).

Posted by: bezvodka | February 18, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

commenting on:
By contrast, while not Taliban themselves, terrorists who trained in Afghanistan did attack New York and Washington in 2001.

the terrorists also trained in Hamburg, Germany and in Florida, USA.

but it wasn't the folks in Hamburg and Miami that sheltered Bin Laden after 9/11. Afghanistan and the Taliban ARE the proper battleground/enemy to be fighting in the war on terror, along with the tribal regions of PAKISTAN, where bin Laden is currently being harbored. If W had put half the resources into Afghanistan that he put into Iraq back in 2001-02 when we had the world with us and the momentum behind us, the streets of Afghanistan could be paved with gold and the population would love America for freeing them from the tyranny of the Taliban, which would have been a huge blow to Islamic extremism. Afghanistan could by now be "the shinning beacon on the moutaintop" of what American might and right can do when we put our minds to it. We had all of NATO militarily and diplomatically standing arm-in-arm with us, and the sympathy of the entire world, with the exception of a few celebratory misguided Palestinians. As it stands, Bush let Afghanistan fester, while corroding America's world-wide support in the W.O.T. by fighting a war that never should've been fought in Iraq, which is what gave rise to Iran--removing their mortal enemy. In short, Bush not only took his eye of the ball, but stepped in front of the plate and took pitch after pitch in the gut. Dumb dumb dumb. He fought Iraq for a totally unrelated reason, rallying public support while his approval rating was 92% after his ''bullhorn on the rubble of the WTC" speech. We had enough worldwide support to turn Afghanistan around for once and for all, which is what the Soviets DIDN'T have--we were fighting a proxy war against them in Afghanistan, which is why they lost. If we had been fighting no one but a rag-tag bunch of thugs in their toyota pick-ups, with no backing from an opposing superpower, and with the support of all the first-world militaries on the globe, we COULD'VE accomplished in Afghanistan what everyone else has failed to do over the centuries.

Posted by: beelzebob | February 18, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to President Obama's efforts in an attempt to bring Afghanistan under Western-Styled control, I have images of Lyndon B. Johnson's Viet Nam, the Russians also in Afghanistan (although, their goal was different), the British in Afghanistan. Only the Greeks seem to have been assimilated in a way that left a benign DNA trace in "Bactria". Indians have ruled and been repulsed by the Afghanis several times over the millenia. Maybe we should just let them alone. Forcing military dominance may be counter-productive.

Posted by: pailnm | February 18, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to exercise caution here, least Pakistan becomes his Cambodia and the Tribal regions his Laos. The Russians paid a terrible price believing first-world weapons trump 12th century religious fervor. In this backwater of the world, the less Western presence the better.

Posted by: slim2 | February 18, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

As a faithful subscriber to THE NATION - a progressive publication - the strategy in place in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due for a top to bottom review. President Obama might be making a "chess move" by sending over more ground troops to root out Al Qaeda terror camps, but he runs the risk of becoming embroiled in a "no-win" fight.

--------

And Russia sits right over the border, still a well-armed military state, still potent enought to fuel any covert type actions against our troops. We did it to them, it's not far-fetched we can likewise be gamed.

Somehow, I get the impression this fact never enters into the thinking of those who plan to increase troop strength, or, if it does, much like Bush and Cheney, it is disregarded as a non-factor.

And that type of naive thinking simply reflects a lack of true military and intelligence sophistication, DEADLY for our men and women.

I wish Obama had made better choices in terms of his NSC, even the Pentagon.

Why is he keeping the generals and the intelligence actors who could not win in the ME, those who enthusiastically executed Cheney's nonsense, domestically?

Perhaps it's due to his lack of experience, but I have a hard time understanding WHY he is accepting advice from those soundly thrashed Cheney acolytes, those too stupid or too cowardly to stand down the insane crook.

Cheney PURGED the Pentagon of the better generals, I wish Obama's personal staff would take this factor into account before they allow Jones and Blair to make any more plans. This war WILL be remembered as Obama's Viet Nam, not Gates' and not Jones'. Best to make good choices, as he will be burdened with the failures...

This effort will go nowhere under the Cheney people, it will only further harm the US. And this time we have the added complication of the Russian-American-Afghan history coming into play, and who knows where that will lead.

WHAT a mess...

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | February 18, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Prior to Iraq, Rand (scarcely a liberal think tank) pointed out the danger of having too few troops-it makes one excessively reliant on heavy fire power and its concomitant increase in "collateral damage" a.k.a civilian deaths. Which in turn is the mother's milk of any resistance group.

I fear the the problem is that we are once again sending too few troops. IMO the right level would be one that would not require the use of air power to protect our soldiers.

Posted by: rds7481 | February 18, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

We are told that our objective is to stabilize that area. If that could be done, which all others have failed to do, the evil doers would just move their bases. They are fish that swim in a sea of sympathy.

This is madness.

Posted by: Bartolo1 | February 19, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

The not-very-sharpshooter and the delusional fightin' Vietnam again to win are symptoms of conservative delusionalism. You can't murder your way into the hearts and minds of the population even if you use gee whiz gear to do it. The sooner we use Afghanistan as a base to clear out the tribal zone of Pakistan the better off we will be in terms of clearing out of Afghanistan with our hineys intact, more or less, and shutting down the real bad guys who Bush let escape.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | February 19, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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