Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has bemoaned the politicization of the current chaos in Afghanistan. She has yet to raise that objection against the Obama administration’s crowing about the death of Osama bin Laden.
Mob violence has continued in Afghanistan since the discovery that Korans and other religious writings that had been defaced by terrorist detainees were burned for disposal. Four official U.S. apologies - including one at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society - haven’t defused tensions. At least four U.S. troops have died directly because of incidents related to the Koran burnings, and more than a dozen have been wounded. After two U.S. officers were gunned down inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, pulled out all NATO advisers. On Monday, the United Nations retreated from its headquarters in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz after it was attacked by a mob.
These actions tell the insurgents and other opponents of the Kabul government to keep up the pressure. Removing ministry advisers so dramatically gives official weight to the idea that this is a crisis that is beyond the administration’s control. It strikes to the heart of NATO’s governance-building mission and erodes trust on both sides. It also rewards the terrorist who did the ministry shooting, who is somehow still at large.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said Sunday, “This is not the time to decide that we are done here.” His comment underscored what everyone, particularly the Afghans, is thinking - that the Obama administration has decided it is done in Afghanistan and is looking for a quick way out. In December, Vice President Joseph R. Biden tellingly stated, “The Taliban, per se, is not our enemy.” Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta seemed to accelerate the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan by a year. Both statements were later “clarified,” but the sense that America is rushing for the door is widespread and enduring.
On Monday, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders “believe we have achieved significant progress in reversing the Taliban’s momentum and in developing the Afghan security forces, and they believe that the fundamentals of our strategy remain sound.” Hardly anyone else believes this. Insurgents continue to make gains in the countryside in areas where coalition forces aren’t present. U.S. casualties this year are tracking at about the same level they were last year and are up 40 percent from the first two months of 2009.
An Asia Foundation survey released in November found that the number of Afghans who think their country is on the wrong track increased over the previous year. (That said, more Afghans think their country is headed in the right direction than Americans do about ours.) Unfortunately for President Obama, it will take more than unmanned drones to find a way out of this crisis.
The Washington Times
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