Afghan Foreign Minister Warns United States Against ‘Reductionist’ Goals

Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 10:52 am

Speaking at the Center for American Progress, Afghanistan’s foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, made a full-throated plea for the United States not to back away from supporting Afghan democracy. “In recent weeks and months, we have heard some views here and elsewhere that we need to reduce our expectations from Afghanistan, and instead pursue ‘realistic’ objectives in Afghanistan,” Spanta said through translation, calling such a view. “reductionist.” He warned, “Any reductionist policy is bound to fail.”

It’s not hard to understand why Spanta, who met with the Obama administration’s strategy review yesterday, said what he did. President Obama said in his first news conference that the measure of success in Afghanistan and Pakistan was the destruction of Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens there – not a democratic Afghanistan — and Defense Secretary Bob Gates has derided the idea of creating a “Central Asian Valhalla.” Combined with Obama administration antipathy with the Karzai government he serves, it’s natural that Spanta would view such talk as indicating a reduction of support to him and his colleagues.

So Spanta made a case for continuing development, security and governance assistance to Afghanistan, saying that a counterterrorism mission wouldn’t succeed without such provisions for the needs of the Afghan people. “I would link what we discussed with our American colleagues with the need for a democratic Afghanistan,” he said. And there he may find a receptive ear. There’s support for the proposition that development and governance aid are necessary preconditions for counterterrorism success from the progressives at the National Security Network and the shadow-Pentagon Center for a New American Security.

Speaking of CNAS, I’m typing this from the St. Regis Hotel, where CNAS is about to host a press conference with Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.

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