Afghan Officials Want War Goals Maintained

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Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta (Afghan Embassy, NATO)

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta (Afghan Embassy, NATO)

Two key Afghan officials, in Washington for discussions with the Obama administration about the future of the Afghanistan war, urged the U.S. against scaling back its ambitions in Afghanistan.

Speaking at gatherings convened by two think tanks close to the administration, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta warned against reducing support for what Wardak called “a strong central government.” The Obama administration is currently reviewing policy options for the seven-year long war, and several administration officials have urged refocusing U.S. efforts on core interests like eradicating safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, rather than creating what Defense Secretary Bob Gates has derisively called a “Central Asian Valhalla.” The Obama administration has expressed impatience with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai over governmental corruption; and Karzai recently likened relations with the new administration to a “gentle wrestling match.”

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Both men met yesterday at the White House with senior administration officials, including ret. Marine Gen. Jim Jones, President Obama’s national security advisor, and the leaders of the administration’s ongoing Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review, former CIA official Bruce Riedel, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and Amb. Richard Holbrooke. The review is designed to shape the future of U.S. policy toward the two countries wracked by Al Qaeda-supported insurgencies. Delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan are in town this week to lend their input to the review.

Spanta told an audience at the Center for American Progress Thursday morning that he implored the review to emphasize support for Afghan “security, sustainable development, and good governance.” A “reductionist” approach that focused just on counterterrorism operations “is bound to fail,” he said. He indicated that the Obama strategy review focused many of its questions on security issues in Afghanistan. “I would link what we discussed with our American colleagues with the need for a Democratic Afghanistan,” Spanta said.

Wardak gave a feisty and somewhat combative address at a panel sponsored by the Center for a New American Security on Thursday, the think tank that Flournoy co-founded in 2007. He accused the media of painting a “gloomy picture” of Afghanistan and ignoring “the improvement across all sectors of government.” (A report released today from the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that the people of Afghanistan “experience deteriorating security and a worsening economic situation.”) Reiterating his desire for a “long-term partnership” with the United States, Wardak said his primary strategy for security in Afghanistan would be the accelerated development of the Afghan National Army from nearly 86,000 soldiers currently to 134,000 by 2013, and to gradually phase the the army into “lead[ing] the fight independently” of U.S. and NATO troops. He did not give timetables for the transition.

Saying that 2009 would be “critical,” Wardak predicted that “this year, the Afghan National Army’s performance will exceed your expectations, as more operations will be led by the [army] and it will take more responsibility for more provinces.”

Wardak mirrored Spanta’s comments about abandoning broader aims in Afghanistan, but added a darker undercurrent. “Changing course, embracing a strategy of containment or abandoning the approach of a strong central government” would amount to “falling into the trap the enemy has laid,” he said.

Similarly, Spanta backed Wardak in urging Americans to support funding for the development of the Afghan security forces. Putting Afghans in the lead for security missions is “the precondition [for] acceptable security in Afghanistan,” an approach endorsed by Defense Secretary Gates and Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who recently signed an accord with Wardak to better integrate Afghan Defense Ministry planning in the design of U.S. operations.

In one case, Spanta went further than Wardak in publicly calling for reconciliation with insurgents not tied to Al Qaeda. “We have the responsibilty to support and help them come back to Afghan society,” he said, claiming that “there is no difference between us and our allies,” a remark seeming to indicate that the Obama review team agrees on the need for widespread insurgent reconciliation. Asked by The Washington Independent what percentage of the insurgency was reconcilable, Spanta that the “It’s hard to give a percentage but we know it is a remarkable [proportion], if some entities in our neighborhood allow it,” seeming to suggest that Pakistan, where senior Taliban leadership is believed to operate, is hindering reconciliation efforts.

While the Obama administration may narrow its strategic goals for the Afghanistan war — Obama has said that eradicating safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan would amount to success — a host of recent reports from administration allies have said that the sort of robust support for Afghan development and governance efforts that Spanta advocated are the only way to achieve such counterterrorism objectives. The progressive National Security Network made the case last week that such care for the needs of Afghan civilians would be necessary to cleave the population from the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies, as did a paper last month from the Center for a New American Security that was co-written by Vikram Singh, now an adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan to Undersecretary Flournoy.

Indeed, at the Center for American Progress — run by John Podesta, who chaired the Obama team’s transition into office — Spanta made an ideological case for continued U.S. commitment aimed at the ascendant progressive community. “We require and urge all like-minded progressive and democratic voices” to give “support and solidarity to democracy in Afghanistan,” he said.

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Comments

8 Comments

Frankophile
Comment posted February 26, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

Wardak is the Afghan Barney Frank. It's uncanny, really.


Stan Krasnoff
Comment posted February 27, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

Not withstanding comments from Defense Minister Wardak and Foreign Minister Spanta who obviously have vested interests, Secretary Gates needs to keep a clear perspective on what can be achieved in Afghanistan. The war started with Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 when the Northern Alliance, heavily supported by US firepower, ousted the Taliban and cornered el Qaeda in the mountains of Tora Bora. Instead of sending in a US Ranger or Marine Brigade to collar the remnants—which would have been in line with the post 9/11 mission—the US sat on its hands allowing the Northern Alliance to broker a dubious cease-fire. Seven years later the problem is more complex. Karzai has allowed Afghanistan to be carved up by warlords. He has also failed to quell the resurgence of Taliban, Hisb-i-Islami, and Haqqanis fighters who rampage throughout Afghanistan. Presidential elections are scheduled for Afghanistan in August 2009. Karzai would have a hard time getting 20% of the votes. The people blame the US and NATO for the increase in the power of the warlords. The United National Front (Northern Alliance) in parliament, demand a change in the constitution to bring in a parliamentary system of government with political parties and elections by proportional representation. The only war that the US and its allies need to wage is against el Qaeda for the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians. If the Taliban wishes to protect Bin Laden and el Qaeda, then it become part of the scenario. To achieve this, the US should deploy at least 150,000 combat troops into Afghanistan to secure all borders and conduct counter insurgency operations over a period of 180 days to achieve Enduring Freedom’s mission, after which all troops should be pulled out—in, win, and get out quick. I wrote a book http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/AClayton… which in part deals with this.


Stan Krasnoff
Comment posted March 3, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

It’s obvious that Afghanistan would want more from the US because it sees the US as the milch cow. However, equating large troop deployment to Afghanistan with Vietnam and ‘long’ wars is also erroneous given the right mission. Neither Holbrooke nor Gates seems to give credence to what is staring them in the eye. What does ‘winning the war mean’? The war started with Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 when the Northern Alliance, heavily supported by US firepower, ousted the Taliban and cornered el Qaeda in the mountains of Tora Bora. Instead of sending in a US Ranger or Marine Brigade to collar the remnants—which would have been in line with the post 9/11 mission—the US sat on its hands allowing the Northern Alliance to broker a dubious cease-fire. Seven years later the problem is more complex. Karzai has allowed Afghanistan to be carved up by warlords. He has also failed to quell the resurgence of Taliban, Hisb-i-Islami, and Haqqanis fighters who rampage throughout Afghanistan. Presidential elections are scheduled for Afghanistan in August 2009. Karzai would have a hard time getting 20% of the votes. The people blame the US and NATO for the increase in the power of the warlords. The United National Front (Northern Alliance) in parliament, demand a change in the constitution to bring in a parliamentary system of government with political parties and elections by proportional representation. The only war that the US and its allies need to wage is against el Qaeda for the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians. If the Taliban wishes to protect Bin Laden and el Qaeda, then it becomes part of the scenario. To achieve this, the US should deploy at least 150,000 combat troops into Afghanistan to secure all borders—that includes the Swat Valley (with Pakistan’s involvement)—and conduct counter insurgency operations over a period of 180 days to achieve Enduring Freedom’s mission, after which all troops should be pulled out—in, win, and get out quick. I wrote a book http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/AClayton… which in part deals with this.


andrewwang
Comment posted March 27, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

The American people trust that Obama will effectively deal with Afghan issues.

LONG LIVE PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA!

Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

I know it may be hard to believe.

However, it is absolutely true that Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

A lot of people know about Reagan’s infamy.

And a lot of people will know about Reagan’s infamy—even until the end of human existence: they’ll find out.

Numbers 32:23: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, J.D. Candidate
B.S., With the Highest Level of Academic Honors at Graduation, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

(I can type 90 words per minute, and there are thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post. And there are thousands of copies in very many countries around the world.)
_________________
‘If only there could be a BAN against invention that bottled up memories like scent so they never faded & they never got stale.’ (Once again, please consider an illustrative analogy: like scent that is held in or restrained or inhibited or suppressed or bottled up.) It came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.


andrewwang
Comment posted March 27, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

The American people trust that Obama will effectively deal with Afghan issues.

LONG LIVE PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA!

Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

I know it may be hard to believe.

However, it is absolutely true that Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

A lot of people know about Reagan’s infamy.

And a lot of people will know about Reagan’s infamy—even until the end of human existence: they’ll find out.

Numbers 32:23: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, J.D. Candidate
B.S., With the Highest Level of Academic Honors at Graduation, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

(I can type 90 words per minute, and there are thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post. And there are thousands of copies in very many countries around the world.)
_________________
‘If only there could be a BAN against invention that bottled up memories like scent so they never faded & they never got stale.’ (Once again, please consider an illustrative analogy: like scent that is held in or restrained or inhibited or suppressed or bottled up.) It came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.


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