Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Obama in Afghanistan

PBS Newshour provides President Obama's speech in Afghanistan on Tuesday, May 1:

White House transcript here.

This sentence caught my attention: "And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us."

I supported the Afghanistan War in 2001 and for years thereafter. But Obama's statement is probably accurate, and it reveals a problem in that war from the start. The main goal of the US military response in Afghanistan should have been to kill, capture or otherwise disable Bin Laden's Al Qaida forces to the extent possible. In 2001, they actually were concentrated in Afghanistan. And, if fact, the initial intervention actually did kill, capture and disrupt much of Bin Laden's organization as it existed at the time.

If you assume that is what Obama meant when he said the goal had been "to make sure al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us," that makes sense. But in practice, the Cheney-Bush Administration was fixated on terrorism as a problem of state-sponsored terrorism, which Bin Laden's operation was not. So they concentrated on installing and propping up a new government in Kabul, beginning an opened-ended commitment that will still be open-ended under the new agreement that Obama announced on this week's visit there. But he is winding down the US troop presence, which is good so far as it goes.

Additional videos below.

This PBS Newshour discussion features RAND Corporation's terrorism fear-monger Seth Jones and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, Obama's Afghanistan Pact: What it Does, What it Doesn't Do 05/01/2012:

Jones and Katulis are in agreement that we needed to assure Afghan President Hamid Karzai of at least another 10 years of support and that this agreement does do that. Katlusi and Jones, " who worked for the commander of U.S. special forces in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011," gives the Pentagon preemptive alibis for future problems. Katulis:

And I think -- I have not read the agreement itself, but as I have been told, it has serious commitments from the Afghan government on fighting corruption and political reform, which I would say is as important as the security efforts that we're trying to do in building up the Afghan security forces, because we could be building security forces on a foundation that's not very stable without those commitments from our Afghan partners.

Well, I think one -- one issue that still is not addressed -- and I know Afghans continue to be concerned about -- is what will the structure look like that will fight against the Taliban and the range of other insurgents groups, including the Haqqani Network?

And many Afghans are deeply concerned about their own survival. So, will the Taliban increasingly take control of territory? Will they eventually overcome? It still doesn't get by some concerns that the U.S. is militarily abandoning Afghanistan, especially when we have neighbors like Iran and particularly Pakistan that are supporting insurgent groups.
Here's the same pair, Obama's Address: 'Not a Mission Accomplished Speech' PBS Newshour 05/01/2012:

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