Monday, August 31, 2009

An eerie similarity

The waning days of summer promise to bring in a new flurry of activity in Afghanistan. Despite the heralded release of McChrystal's 'strategic review', the first issue that the US has to confront is the selection of the next 'leader' of the country.

A relentless media campaign has discredited Karzai everywhere but in Afghanistan. The elections have been discredited using the same tools, obedient reporters who uncritically repeat what they are told by anonymous government officials. We've been informed that Karzai and Holbrooke were almost at each others throats, with Holbrooke demanding that Karzai submit to a run off election. Karzai does not seem willing to yield to the demands, so the US is going to have to decide quickly whether it can live with Karzai, or find some means to put its new fair-haired boy Abdullah in power using extra-constitutional means.

On the war front, no one seems very certain about anything

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Monday that while he had not yet seen the report, he expected it to portray a “mixed picture” of the operations there. He was quick to add, however, that he thought “some of the doom and gloom perhaps is somewhat overdrawn.” Speaking in Fort Worth, Tex., he also said Afghan forces may have to grow beyond the planned level of 230,000 personnel to make headway, news services reported.
some, perhaps, somewhat... SecDef Gates doesn't seem to want to put himself out on a limb.

Reading the tea leaves, I'd say that the Obama administration has not yet made any decisions, hence the hemming and hawing. But the generals are going to up the pressure for more troops, and that will be politically impossible with Karzai around. While you have to go to war with the army you have, puppet leaders can be substituted at will. Obama will bite the bullet and order another major escalation.

Those of us who remember Vietnam can begin to see an eerie similarity. When hearing of Karzai's removal, perhaps Mullah Omar will echo the words of another US foe:
Upon learning of Diem's ouster and death, Ho Chi Minh is reported to have said, "I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid."


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