Monday, December 8, 2008

Trouble in Afghanistan

There has been a lot in the press lately about the serious situation the U.S. faces in Afghanistan, including pleas by U.S. and NATO generals for more troops, which they are almost certain to get under the Obama administration. As I have said before, if Iraq was George Bush's Vietnam, Afghanistan could turn into Obama's Iraq--and wreck his presidency no matter how well he does on the economic front.

One can only hope that Obama and his team are paying attention to voices such as that of Kai Eide, the United Nation's special representative to Afghanistan. The New York Times gave voice to Eide's concerns on one of its back pages today (and buried on its Web site), but they are well worth paying attention to:

KABUL, Afghanistan — In unusually blunt remarks, the chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan warned in an interview this weekend that unless Afghanistan’s international partners conducted their military operations with more care and cultural sensitivity, redoubled their work to minimize civilian casualties and accelerated their reconstruction programs, they risked jeopardizing their efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country.

Eide asks questions that the Obama team should be asking itself:

“Are we sufficiently sensitive to Afghan concerns?” he asked. “Are we sure that we behave in a way that brings Afghan communities closer to the government? Do we listen sufficiently to the concerns we hear from the president and so many Afghans? I’m not convinced that we are.”

Obama has little time to get it right in Afghanistan, after so many years of the Bush administration getting it disastrously wrong. Indeed, it may already be too late.

Have we learned nothing? That's the question about Afghanistan posed by veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk in the Independent (thanks to LKH for the link.)

Supporting the troops? USA Today reports that the Pentagon knew about the dangers of IED's (improvised explosive devices) to U.S. troops in Iraq but did basically nothing to develop more protective vehicles. The story is based on an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general.


Anne Gilbert said...

I don't know if Obama will even have the chance to "get it right" in Afghanistan. The place is notorious for throwing "foreigners" out. The Soviets were just the most recent example of this. As for the Taliban, I don't know. It might be better to "get them on your side", so to speak, and into "government", then have whatever government is finally set up there, "defang" the Taliban so that at least it won't try to bomb girls's schools, etc. I think this might be possible, but it will be pretty hard work, and some more or less "neutral' force like the UN might have to do it.

Paddy Diamond said...

Good luck trying to convince the Taliban to do that

Paddy Diamond said...

Good luck trying to convince the Taliban to do that

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