Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ending the Afghan Charade

How much more blood and how many more billions will America pour into a senseless enterprise as it enters its tenth year with the threadbare fa├žade of strategic coherence crumbling?

As the President goes to Lisbon this week to "confront" Hamid Karzai right after he enraged Gen. Petraeus by publicly demanding the US scale back its operations, reality calls for more than the usual coddling that has characterized such meetings.

A year ago, in sending more troops, the President said, "If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow."

Despite all the diplo-speak, can he possibly still believe that? In a time when our own country is in turmoil, doesn't it make sense to start calling Karzai's bluff?

Oddly enough, Obama's electoral shellacking provides him with bipartisan cover. The GOP wing led by war-loving John McCain is under siege from new Senators like Rand Paul, who shares his father's opposition to foreign military operations and the expense of waging them.

Two years ago, there was an exit proposal to increase funding and training for Afghans as US troops withdraw while trying to buy away less extreme elements of the Taliban and preserving the option of air strikes to keep them bought.

"Our strategy in Afghanistan," a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations contended, "should emphasize what we do best (containing and deterring, and forging coalitions) and downgrade what we do worst (nation-building in open-ended wars). It should cut our growing costs and secure our interests by employing our power more creatively and practically. It must also permit us...to focus more American resources and influence on the far more dire situation in Pakistan."

Months ago, Bob Woodward's book, "Obama's Wars," depicted a deeply divided White House over what to do in Afghanistan, with US intelligence describing Karzai as a manic-depressive whose mood swings are not always controlled by medication. Isn't it time to get him on a higher dose and get our troops out of harm's way while he tries to stabilize himself and his country?

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