- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Brahma Chellaney’s appraisal of President Obama’s tactics and strategy to bring the war on terrorism to Afghanistan was excellently crafted (“Surge, bribe and run,” Opinion, Tuesday) but I must disagree with him.

Mr. Chellaney seems to suggest that the Obama administration has a defined, single purpose in Afghanistan: egress. I don’t believe our politicians have enough nerve to commit themselves to anything in particular. They got where they are today because changing horses midrace is how they have prospered.

At the same time, we should not confuse the politicians with our military generals. Last week, the CIA and Pakistanis finally picked up the Taliban’s No. 2 leader, something Mr. Chellany suggested was off-limits. In Mr. Chellany’s view, we need that man to negotiate with so Mr. Obama can surge, bribe and run.

I believe what we are witnessing is a determined U.S. military establishment bringing the war to the Taliban. It is an unintentional smear to suggest our military is pulling punches. The “surge” will determine who is dictating the tempo of battle on the ground in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama talked about troop increases, but have they occurred significantly enough to meet the needs of the commanders on the ground? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton identifies the focus of terror as Iran, and Mr. Obama, after campaign attacks on his predecessor for failing to take the fight to Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, appears to have in place a fighting force short in numbers.

There is more at stake in Afghanistan than negotiating with the Taliban. Mr. Chellaney is right in assuming the Taliban has no reason to negotiate and no history of keeping its truces with “infidels.” Afghanistan is key to Iranian containment; despite early battles with the Taliban in the 1980s, it now supplies the Taliban with weapons.

Mr. Chellaney has good reason to suggest that Mr. Obama is following a course of surge, bribe and run. Mr. Obama is too morally feeble to understand the enemy we face. While most of America recognizes that our enemies are socialist-Islamic militants, the president is simply fighting “militants.”

Here are a few things Mr. Obama must decide and set a course upon to make this world less dangerous:

c Rules of engagement must be more flexible when fighting an enemy that hides behind and targets civilians. The United Nations is not our friend in these matters.

c Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton should at least be seen in public as acting in concert and not as two distinct agencies with separate agendas.

c We must dictate the tempo of action in overseas theaters. Any hesitation is a boon to terrorists planning international incidents.

c We have to know our enemies, who in this case are militant, socialist Muslims. Incidentally, Mr. Obama has both socialist and Islamic roots.

Adopting these points would be a start. But Mr. Obama is not, as Mr. Chellaney noted, a president who is compatible with the military. In the end, surge, bribe and run is the best way to describe his approach to most everything, with the American taxpayer always footing the bill.

TERRY STAUB

Fredericksburg, Va.

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