Fogh of War 2: Summit Op-Ed Edition
As the NATO foreign ministerial summit in Brussels opens with a pledge of 7,000 new allied troops for Afghanistan, hawkish secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen himself pledges that NATO’s “new momentum” for the war is about much more than troop commitments. From his Washington Post op-ed today:
It is about strategy. And our strategy is clear: to transfer responsibility for running their country to the Afghans, as soon as possible.
That means a transition in which Afghan forces take the lead and our forces move into a supporting role. I am pressing allies and partners to fully resource and finance our training mission. That is how we’ll make the transition to Afghan leadership a reality, sooner. I’m confident that when the Afghan people and the citizens in nations that are contributing troops see this transition happening, starting next year, they will see the progress that inspires them to continue to support this mission.
Following on testimony from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rasmussen writes that “transition” does not mean “exit strategy,” but instead “transition to a different role” — overwatch. In a very unfortunate phrase, Rasmussen writes that in 2011 “we will start to see light at the end of the tunnel.” (Maybe that sounds better in Danish than in Vietnamese-accented English.) But he tells Hamid Karzai know that the new commitment is not unconditional:
Good governance is the best way to close off the oxygen supply to the Taliban. After all that we have committed to this mission, we have the right to insist on it.
Matthew Yglesias considers such a pledge to be hollow.