Against the backdrop of all-day meetings on Pakistan and Afghanistan, US air attacks have killed dozens more civilians in Afghanistan.
Here’s the schedule for today:
9:15 Hillary Clinton meets Hamid Karzai
9:45 Hillary Clinton meets Asif Ali Zardari
10:30 Clinton, Karzai, and Zardari meet together
2:00 President Obama meets Karzai, with Clinton et al.
2:40 Obama meets Zardari, with Clinton et al.
3:30 US, Afghan, Pakistani officials meet
6:30 VP Biden hosts reception for everyone
Lots of other officials — from State, including Richard Holbrooke, the Pentagon, and the US intelligence community — are taking part in round-robin meetings with Afghan and Pakistani officials, too.
Meanwhile, from the Los Angeles Times:
The U.S. military said Tuesday that it was investigating claims by Afghan officials that as many as 70 civilians were killed in heavy fighting between the Taliban and coalition forces in a remote western district. …
Fighting raged through much of Monday, and the coalition forces eventually called in airstrikes, U.S. officials said.
Karzai has long complained about civilian casualties from air strikes, to no avail.
And, as per yesterday’s entry here, Rep. David Obey’s insistence on setting conditions on aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan is drawing fire from — no surprise — congressional Republicans, including John Boehner, the minority leader. He said:
“It’s probably not a very good idea. I suggested that to the president early on. For his sake, our sake and the troops’ sake, let’s not put ourselves in that straitjacket.”
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, writing in the Post, has a long feature about how Obama is keepign Karzai “at arm’s length.” Unlike George W. Bush, who held friendly, weekly teleconferences with Karzai, Obama is maintaining some distance. “Obama has not held a videoconference with Karzai, and the two have spoken by phone just twice,” says the Post, in its lengthy backgrounder, worth reading in full.
It provides a hint of where Obama’s going:
The administration will also seek to bypass Karzai by working more closely with other members of his cabinet and by funneling more money to local governors.
In fact, that’s not a bad idea. Afghanistan is not a centralized state, and it isn’t going to be one anytime soon. Power rests in the villages, in the districts, and in the provinces, and it’s wielded by local chieftains, warlords, and potentates, including many pro-Taliban ones. Ultimately, I think, the Afghan constitution is going to have to be redrawn to create a much more decentralized regime, devolving power to the provinces. I’d rather see the international community, including the UN, manage this process — not the United States.