Kerry: ‘Set Realistic Goals’ in Afghanistan
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm
At today’s just-begun Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan, Sen. John Kerry, (D-Mass.), the committee chairman, subtly implored the Obama administration to sharpen its thinking about the war. “No amount of money, no rise in troop levels, nor any clever metrics will matter if the mission is ill-defined or ill-conceived.”
Kerry sets out a few principles for such refinement. “First it will be the Afghans that will ultimately win or lose the struggle against the Taliban.” The United States is in a “race against time” in a region “suspicious of foreign troops.” Recognize “the decentralized nature” of Afghan politics and society. Be flexible. “What works in Mazar-e-Sharif … is very different from what works in Kandahar.” Be “humble about our ability to bring large-scale change.” Put Afghanistan in a regional context. “Permeable borders are straddled by clans, ethnic groups and militants and what happens in one country can have profound implications for what happens in others.”
Finally: “Set realistic goals. The purpose of the mission is what the president said it was” — a struggle against al-Qaeda. Kerry, who has said the United States is involved in a “global counterinsurgency,” references the commando strike earlier this week against a Somali militant with ties to al-Qaeda. The success, he said, should cause policymakers to ask “how much counterinsurgency and nation-building is required to meet a sufficient set of goals?”
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