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July 28, 2010

Nothing New on Afghanistan - Situation Remains FUBAR
Posted by Michael Cohen

Matt Yglesias flags this smart post from Amy Davidson:

What does it mean to tell the truth about a war? Is it a lie, technically speaking, for the Administration to say that it has faith in Hamid Karzai’s government and regards him as a legitimate leader—or is it just absurd? Is it a lie to say that we have a plan for Afghanistan that makes any sense at all? If you put it that way, each of the WikiLeaks documents—from an account of an armed showdown between the Afghan police and the Afghan Army, to a few lines about a local interdiction official taking seventy-five-dollar bribes, to a sad exchange about an aid scam involving orphans—is a pixel in a picture that does, indeed, contradict official accounts of the war, and rather drastically so.

Well sure this is true; but it's not altogether surprising. One could argue that that we have an actual strategy for Afghanistan and we're working to carry it out. Sure it's a terrible strategy that isn't working and isn't going to work - but it's not a lie.

Yet there is one pretty big whopper that these leaks exposed, which isn't getting nearly enough attention. The same country (Pakistan) that Hillary Clinton recently said was joined with the US in "common cause" against extremists is actually not. But as the Beltway crowd helpfully reminds us, "everyone knows" the Pakistani military and its intelligence services are actively supporting the Afghan Taliban. Yawn, nothing to see here.

Yet, as Jon Stewart presciently noted last night; what's interesting is not the "new" part of the story, but rather the "f***ed-up-it-ness" of it.

Why isn't a bigger story when one of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid and our nominal ally in the fight against extremism is actively undermining that goal? Why isn't it a bigger deal, that this Administration has been less than forthright with the American people about Pakistani involvement in supporting the Taliban insurgency?

In his West Point speech last December President Obama dangerously and wrongly conflated the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban, intimating that they were somehow one and the same. While such a conclusion is, to put it in the most charitable terms, a dubious one what the President didn't mention is that the Pakistani government has very different "attitudes" toward these two groups.

Yesterday National Security Advisor Jim Jones again adopted the same rhetorical trick; praising Pakistan for going after "extremists" that threaten the national security of the Pakistani state and have killed countless Pakistanis. But the role of the Pakistanis in supporting the Afghan Taliban well that goes unmentioned. 

Also little mentioned is the very basic fact that the Taliban insurgency would not exist in its current form without the tacit and active support of the Pakistani government - a government that is receiving $1.5 billion a year in financial assistance. Or how about the fact that nearly nine years after 3,000 Americans were killed on September 11th the Pakistani government still can't seem to find Osama bin Laden or the top al Qaeda operatives that have found shelter in their country. And if anyone believes they can't rather than won't find him . . . well I got some swampland for sale that you might enjoy. Apparently all of Washington "knows" this, but feels it that isn't quite important enough in judging the effectiveness of the current US policy in Afghanistan.

A few years ago there were calls in Congress to get tough with Iran because it was supporting Shiite insurgents in Iraq, who as the nomenclature went at the time had the blood of US troops on their hands. How is the behavior of the Pakistani government demonstrably different? They are not only giving safe haven to insurgent groups that are directing the insurgency in Afghanistan, but they are providing sanctuary for anti-American terrorist groups.  

And why exactly are we looking the other way? Why is it again that billions in US assistance dollars are being directed toward improving the image of the United States in Pakistani eyes? Because supposedly we "need" Pakistan; because they are such a key ally in the fight against extremists; because we can't risk the Pakistani government falling to jihadist groups - even thought we seem a heck of a lot concerned about this than they do. When will the United States learn that the Pakistani government and its military is not just that into us?

And reading news reports of US officials yesterday engaging in fervent damage control with the Pakistanis was enough to turn ones stomach. 

But, the Administration's obfuscation on Pakistan's role in feeding and supporting the Afghan Taliban insurgency is hardly surprising. If it turns out that the Pakistani government is not an ally in the fight against extremism, but indeed a willing participant in aiding and abetting it, well then it shows how bankrupt - and likely to fail - our policy in Afghanistan really is. 

For some reason, it's imperative to maintain the fiction that Pakistan is a willing partner in the fight against extremism and that US diplomacy will have a positive impact in shifting Pakistani attitudes toward Afghanistan. But after nine years of the US acting like Charlie Brown to Pakistan's Lucy I'm at a loss at understanding why anyone believes this.

More and more our Afghanistan policy looks like a game of Jenga: pull out enough pieces (incompetent and corrupt Afghan government) or (poorly trained and unmotivated police and Army) or (lack of time and resources for a COIN fight) or (nominal ally in Pakistan that is actually providing safe haven for Taliban insurgency) and the whole policy comes crumbling to the ground.

As official Washington solemnly debates the appropriateness of the Wikileaks disclosure and tut-tuts that this is a "non-story" the real revelation from these documents is actually a further and vivid reminder of how screwed up and unrealistic the mission in Afghanistan has become - based on a set of assumptions that are both dubious and counter-productive to US interests. 

Perhaps the foreign policy establishment should spend a bit more time chewing over that part of the story. 


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I am afraid not only for Afghanistan and Iraq, but also for all other countries we are trying to save the economy collapses or assist.Our quickly and the effects of this fall to overshadow everything else.

so good,i like this!

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