The big political news of the weekend, well, after Maliki’s “misquote,” has focused on Obama’s doubling down in Afghanistan by calling it “the central front, on our battle against terrorism.” There doesn’t seem much new to his calls for some additional brigades and more action from NATO, but being on the ground garners more attention for his proposals, naturally.
When was the last time that an al-Qaeda operative was captured in Afghanistan by US forces? Is that really what US troops are doing there, looking for al-Qaeda?…If the Afghanistan gambit is sincere, I don’t think it is good geostrategy. Afghanistan is far more unwinnable even than Iraq. If playing it up is politics, then it is dangerous politics.
Obama’s also renewed his calls for adjustments to policy to Pakistan, calling for an expansion in non-military aid to Pakistan. Graham Usher says Obama “should be careful what he wishes for,” as 90% of Pakistanis repudiate the U.S.’s war on terror and two-thirds call the U.S. Pakistan’s greatest national security threat. Pervez Hoodbhoy, meanshile, says his fellow Pakistanis can resist both the Taliban and refuse to serve as the Americans’ “instrument”:
Pakistan must find the will to fight the Taliban…. Pakistan is an Islamic state falling into anarchy and chaos, being rapidly destroyed from within by those who claim to fight for Islam….This is no clash of civilizations. To the Americans, Pakistan is an instrument to be used for their strategic ends. It is necessary and possible to say no. But the Taliban seek to capture and bind the soul and future of Pakistan in the dark prison fashioned by their ignorance. As they now set their sights on Peshawar and beyond, they must be resisted by all possible means, including adequate military force.
Here’s hoping Obama has Ahmed Rashid’s Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia on his bedstand reading list.