President Obama didn’t make encouraging noises on Afghanistan yesterday, at least not if you’re looking for the president to reverse course and step out of the quagmire. In his meeting with members of Congress, including the ever-impatient John McCain, the president seemed to indicate that he’s not planning any cut in US forces, nor — at least according to the New York Times — is he planning to refocus the US effort on a narrower, counterterrorism mission:
“President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.”
That commanding general, of course, is one Stan McChrystal, appointed by Obama last spring, who’s now front and center in a military squeeze play to force Obama to escalate the war. As the Wall Street Journal editorial page notes, in a lengthy editorial called “Obama and the General”:
“Around the Congressional Democratic Caucus, we’re told Members refer to General McChrystal as “General MacArthur,” after the commander in Korea sacked by Harry Truman.”
Exactly — and the Republican “Joe McCarthy’s” in the Congressional Republican Caucus are lauding McChrystal as the hero of all Afghanistan.
It’s one thing for the WSJ to editorialize thusly, but the take-the-cake editorial for today goes to the insipid Washington Post, which warns Obama to listen to (of all people) the Pakistanis! The editorial is called “Why Did Benazir Die?” and it obsequiously quotes the Pakistan foreign minister urging the United States to stay and fight in Afghanistan. Says the paper:
“It seems pretty clear that if Mr. Obama decides to abandon counterinsurgency in the name of something called ‘Pakistan First,’ America’s best allies in Pakistan won’t be happy.’
The thing is, the reason Benazir died — murdered by the Pakistani Taliban, it appears — is that she was killed by the very forces that Pakistan created, nurtured, armed and trained, and in some cases even commanded, through the 1990s and into the current century. By most accounts, including even General McChrystal’s latest report, Pakistan is still backing the Taliban in Afghanistan. So perhaps the very last people on the planet earth that Obama ought to be listening to on Afghanistan is the government of Pakistan. In fact, I’m starting to think that anything that makes “America’s best allies in Pakistan” unhappy is the right policy.
Getting out of Afghanistan, sadly, is going to require making a deal with the Taliban and its backers, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. That’s a fact. We can’t ignore Pakistan, of course, and we’ll have to do things that strengthen the fledgling civilian government there, corrupt as it is, to reduce the power of the Taliban-loving Pakistani military and its ISI allies.
But if Obama doesn’t have the political courage to slap down his COIN-crazy generals and start to reverse course, well, getting out is going to be even harder — and it will take a lot more years.