By Brigitte L. Nacos
Recently, when former Vice President Richard Cheney attacked
President Barack Obama for “dithering” over a new strategy for the war in
The problem is that nobody can be sure “what it takes to
There are no encouraging answers as long as the U.S. and
NATO are dealing President Hamid Karzai’s regime or a similarly unreliable and
corrupt one and as long as the CIA continues to have Ahmed Karzai, the
president's brother and a suspected player in the country’s booming opium trade, on its
pay-roll as it has had since the beginning of the war eight years ago.
No wonder that Spencer Ackerman of the Washington
writes, “At this point, everything about the U.S. policy toward the Afghan
drug trade — from tolerance to eradication during the Bush administration to an
evolving approach to cultivating alternatives — now ought to be questioned….CIA
money funds a politically connected drug dealer. Opium funds the Taliban. We
And then there is the news that the defense bill President
Obama signed into law this week contains the authorization to pay Taliban
fighters to renounce and quit the insurgency.
The record on buying the support of Afghan war lords and
their fighters did not work well at the beginning of the war shortly after
9/11. While open to the dollar bonanza at the time and seemingly helpful to
American forces, when push came to shove the leading Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures managed to flee
into Pakistan—hardly without the assistance of some of those war lords.
On today’s “Morning Joe” show, Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC
analyst who is more knowledgeable and thoughtful than most of television’s
talking heads, made a remarkably candid statement with respect to
Nobody, including General Stanley McCrystal who has
requested at least 40,000 more
As Bob Woodward, who broke the memo story in the Washington Post, put it, “McChrystal
makes clear that his call for more forces is predicated on the adoption of a
strategy in which troops emphasize protecting Afghans rather than killing
insurgents or controlling territory. Most starkly, he says: "[I]nadequate
resources will likely result in failure. However, without a new strategy, the
mission should not be resourced."
But as the Soviet’s learned in the 1990s, even a combination
of stick and carrot—and mostly carrot—does not work in
Matthew P. Hoh, an American military veteran who was the top
civilian officer in Zabul Province, and recently resigned from his post, gave a
bland and worrisome summary of America’s failing strategy in Afghanistan in his
letter. Most importantly, he wrote, “I have observed that the bulk of the
insurgency fights on for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against
the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative
So, if the presence of military forces strengthens the
insurgency, what are the other choices? Can anything be achieved without
If you aren’t familiar with or don’t remember details from
the fascinating book “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s "
Not surprisingly, Kristoff argues, “instead of sending
40,000 troops more to
I know that many so-called realists consider such
suggestions utopian and idealistic without utility in real life.
I actually think that that Vice President Biden’s position—no additional troops and a focus on fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban most of all in their strongholds in Pakistan on the one hand--and substantial financial support for initiatives to build schools and training facilities and roads and bridges rather than trying to buying Taliban fighters and drug lords on the other hand may be a more promising road than beefing up the military presence and thereby the pro-insurgency sentiments.