The situation in Afghanistan is bad. How bad? The head of the US military is warning against a comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam because “Afghanistan is much more complex.” The policy recommendations keep coming in as the Obama Administration plans its escalation, but the proposed strategies couldn’t be more different.
The Carnegie Endowment issued a report called “Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War,” which cautions that the escalation is the worst possible strategy, pointing to the limited resources and saying that reducing military confrontations would be the best way to divide the opposition. To them, withdrawing from Afghanistan without the government collapsing should be the main policy objective.
But another study by the Pentagon, classified and referenced only indirectly by officials, calls for the military to abandon any serious attempts at shoring up the government and to focus instead on fighting the militants everywhere they can, particularly in Pakistan.
If the two agree on one thing, it’s that the current strategy of staying the course on the Bush Administration’s goals and just throwing more troops and money at the problem isn’t going to work. Past that neither seems to expect a full-fledged victory, and appears to be advocating lowering the expectations enough that the military can eventually leave without the humiliation of admiting defeat. Yet every year the expectations have been lowered and every year the situation has gotten worse. In the end neither seems to offer anything but hopes that the war will eventually accomplish something besides killing thousands of Afghan civilians.
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