Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama Administration Crafting New Pakistan and Afghanistan Strategy

The Obama administration will address the drug trade and terrorist sanctuary problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of the new strategy:
Baltimore Sun: The Obama White House, in concert with the State Department and the Pentagon, is crafting a new strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, a process that is not complete, officials said.

Key parts of the new strategy will deal with narcotics and the sanctuaries problem.

President Barack Obama is tentatively scheduled to meet next week with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review strategy options, including schedules to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq over the next 16 to 18 months and plans to add troops in Afghanistan.

Senior officials at the Pentagon and the White House have long been concerned about Afghanistan's drug industry, which provides about 92 percent of the world's heroin supply. The cultivation of poppies and the processing and sale of heroin provide about $400 million a year to the Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, according to United Nations and U.S. intelligence officials.
It's ironic and sad that the U.S. is probably one of the terrorists' largest customers, seeing that we're big users of heroin.
Joe said on Face the Nation that as more troops arrive in Afghanistan, more American deaths will occur. Logical. 
AP: Biden said Sunday that additional U.S. forces will be engaging the enemy more. Asked if that means the U.S. public should expect more American casualties, the vice president said: "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be. There will be an uptick."
It looks like the Obama administration is going to laser focus on Pakistan, where Taliban terrorists are now using radio to announce who they are going to kill:
NYT: Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.

“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

International attention remains fixed on the Taliban’s hold on Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating.
What the U.S. is up against:
NYT: Ever since the Bush administration diverted its attention — and resources — to the war in Iraq from the war in Afghanistan, military planners and foreign policy experts have bemoaned the dearth of troops to keep that country from sliding back into Taliban control. And in that time, the insurgency blossomed, as Taliban militants took advantage of huge swaths of territory, particularly in the south, that NATO troops weren’t able to fill.

Enter Mr. Obama. During the campaign he promised to send two additional brigades — 7,000 troops — to Afghanistan. During the transition, military planners started talking about adding as many as 30,000 troops. And within days of taking office, Mr. Obama announced the appointment of Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Balkan peace accords, to execute a new Afghanistan policy.

But even as Mr. Obama’s military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan “surge,” there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether — or how — the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is.

Afghanistan has, after all, stymied would-be conquerors since Alexander the Great. It’s always the same story; the invaders — British, Soviets — control the cities, but not the countryside. And eventually, the invaders don’t even control the cities, and are sent packing.

Think Iraq was hard? Afghanistan, former Secretary of State Colin Powell argues, will be “much, much harder.”
The Bush administration not tough enough on Karzai?
NYT: Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, the darling of the Bush administration, has begun to lose his luster; American and European officials now express private frustration over his refusal to arrest drug lords who have been running the opium trade.

Mr. Karzai has also been widely criticized for not cracking down enough on corruption. And diplomats say his distaste for venturing far beyond his fortified presidential palace in Kabul reinforces the divide between Afghanistan’s central government and its largely rural population, giving the Taliban free rein in the countryside.

Before sending in more American troops, argues Andrew Bacevich, an international relations professor at Boston University, Mr. Obama should figure out if he is going to change an underlying American policy that has shrunk from putting pressure on Mr. Karzai.

“It seems there’s a rush to send in more reinforcements absent the careful analysis that’s most needed here,” said Mr. Bacevich, author of “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”
The current troop levels and how many are needed:
Baltimore Sun: Conway, who serves on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is prepared to provide up to 20,000 Marines for Afghanistan, a tenfold increase over the number deployed there.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, has asked Washington to provide three more combat brigades, an aviation brigade and thousands of additional combat engineers, military police, and specialists in civil affairs, information operations and logistics - about 30,000 troops in all.

Currently there are 32,000 American troops in Afghanistan and an additional 30,000 NATO forces under McKiernan's command.

Some say more troops alone won't help. Obama seems to know that.
NYT: Can 30,000 more troops help with that objective?

J. Alexander Their, an Afghanistan expert at the United States Institute of Peace, argues that additional troops can form a basis for stability, but that their presence will be for naught unless there is also government reform. “The Afghan population, particularly in the rural areas, have a strong degree of ambivalence toward the government,” he said. “People expect very little from government, or expect bad things. Yet we’ve ignored government reform and rule of law as part of our strategy.”

The appointment of Mr. Holbrooke as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan may signal the direction that the Obama administration will take there. In the past, Mr. Holbrooke has written — as he did in a column in The Washington Post last spring — that in Afghanistan, “massive, officially sanctioned corruption and the drug trade are the most serious problems the country faces, and they offer the Taliban its only exploitable opportunity to gain support.”

And during her confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Afghanistan a “narco-state” with a government “plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption.” So an Obama administration may, indeed, look for ways to press Mr. Karzai to crack down on corruption and drug trafficking.