Jones on Afghanistan: More Troops Alone Is Dumb
In his first interview since becoming Barack Obama’s national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones tells Neil King of the Wall Street Journal that more troops alone can’t be the solution in Afghanistan:
In an interview Tuesday, the retired Marine Corps general said Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to move as many as 10,000 U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan must mesh with a concentrated international effort to bolster government and eradicate the vast heroin trade.
“You can always put more troops into Afghanistan,” he said. “But if that’s all you do, you will just be prolonging the problem.”
Clearly this will not be an Iraq-style surge. The challenge for Obama’s national security team, which Jones will coordinate, will be to determine just what U.S. goals in Afghanistan truly are after seven years of war. It’s pragmatic and realistic to recognize that military power can’t accomplish everything in an extraordinarily complex war. But is it pragmatic and realistic to set as a U.S. goal the eradication of the heroin trade? We can’t stop the drug flow from Colombia, let alone Afghanistan. (Interestingly, Mark Leon Goldberg of U.N. Dispatch reports that this year’s poppy crop declined 19 percent from last year. [Update: Or maybe that's misleading.] )
In his October presser, Gen. David McKiernan similarly talked about using NATO assets to go after poppy and other narco/criminal-terrorist elements in Afghanistan. And here I wonder if that doesn’t represent mission creep at a time when you’ve got an increased Taliban/insurgent threat and when you need the population — which grows poppy more than any other crop — on your side. The insurgency makes money off poppy, no question. But how much of your limited resources do you want to peel away for a poppy-eradication mission?