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ABOUT AFGHANISTAN, LISTEN THE BRITISH. When it comes to Afghanistan, the British have a special perspective: Every mistake the United States has made recently, they made 150 years ago. So it's worth listening to British experts in the debate over Afghan strategy, says David Ignatius in RealClearPolitics.
The best answer the British came up with was working with tribal leaders in the border regions, says Ignatius. A modern version of this "work with the tribes" approach is still the best answer. And it seems to be an important part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy that was leaked this week.
A key passage is McChrystal's discussion of "reintegration," which is counterinsurgency-speak for co-opting Taliban fighters: He advocates "offering them a way out" with "reasonable incentives to stop fighting and return to normalcy, possibly including the provision of employment and protection." Simple translation: If you play ball with the Afghan government, you get money, jobs and maybe guns.
I heard two private British criticisms of McChrystal's strategy, and they go to the heart of whether it can work says Ignatius.
The first dissent is over whether a surge of U.S. troops is needed to regain the initiative against the Taliban. More troops don't necessarily mean more security. The second caution from British experts is that the Afghan tribal structure is broken. The authority of the tribal elders as "a river to their people," as one old Afghan hand puts it, has been shattered by decades of war. Power has flowed to drug dealers, gunrunners and Taliban fighters.
To shift the balance, Gen. McChrystal's best resource may be money . If there's one thing the British learned in this part of the world, it's the utility of cold, hard cash. (read in depth)
AFGHANISTAN IS LIKE VIETNAM: True, he doesn't seem a bit like Lyndon Johnson, but the way he's headed on Afghanistan, Barack Obama is threatened with a quagmire that could bog down his presidency, writes Robert Scheer in San Francisco Chronicle.
Meaningless is the right term for the Afghanistan war - thinks Scheer and adds - Just as the government of Vietnam was never a puppet of communist China or the Soviet Union, the Taliban is not a surrogate for al Qaeda.
Scheer, who was reporting Vietnam War, says that then as now there was an optimism not supported by the facts on the ground. Then as now there were references to elections and supporting local politicians to win the hearts and minds of people we were bombing. Then as now the local leaders on our side turned out to be hopelessly corrupt, a condition easily exploited by those we term the enemy. (read in depth)
OBAMA'S WAR CHOICE: "This is now his war," writes Clive Crook in The Financial Times about Obama and Afghanistan war. The American president asserted ownership again only recently, calling the conflict for the hundredth time "a necessary war," writes Crook.
The American administration is facing a dilemma - to pull out the troops and leave Afghans undefended to the Taliban attacks, or to push them out to Pakistan. Both options are dangerous, says Crook, but a growing presence of radical Islamists in nuclear Pakistan seems the worst choice.
Afghanistan is a war of choice, writes Crook and adds, given the risks of withdrawal, I think Mr Obama is right not to quit just yet - but to improve his chances of success he must bring his ends and means into closer alignment. Mr Obama is trying to do the right thing, but he will surely regret making this war his own, Crook concludes. (read in depth)
FORCES, MONEY AND LEADERSHIP TO WIN: For now the war in Afghanistan is lost. It will be completely lost if the United States does not invest the necessary amount of recourses. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade, says Anthony H. Cordesman from The Washington Post .
Engaged in Iraq Bush administration was not able to manage the war in Afghanistan. The appointments this summer of Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Afghanistan and McChrystal as commander of U.S. and allied forces have created a team that can reverse the present situation, thinks Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not, says Cordesman. (read in depth)