Michael Crowley

An Afghanistan Consensus, Sort Of
October 15, 2009

WashPost: Although Obama's top advisers disagree over whether to adopt a counterterrorism strategy or a counterinsurgency approach in Afghanistan, they have generally reached a consensus on other matters, officials said. That consensus emphasizes the importance of training Afghan security and police forces, as well as improving efforts to build effective government institutions. I'm not the world's top expert on counterinsurgency. But it does seem to me that training security forces is likely to fall under that category; it's not something separate and different.

An Afghan Safe Haven... but not for al Qaeda?
October 14, 2009

Today's Washington Post editorial is the latest iteration of the paper's hawkish line on Afghanistan. But I think it raises a good question that hasn't been examined enough in the past couple of weeks. If the U.S. cedes swaths of nonpopulated territory to the Taliban, what does that mean for Pakistan's fight against their own domestic Taliban insurgency? Here's the Post's warning: Adopting such a strategy would condemn American soldiers to fighting and dying without the chance of winning. But it would also cripple Pakistan's fight against the jihadists.

Pakistani Ambassador Staying?
October 13, 2009

So says Husain Haqqani, Islamabad's affable man in Washington, despite contrary reports: "So far I've not been asked to alter my responsibilities nor have any questions been raised about my conduct," Haqqani said, adding that he does plan to meet with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the latter's trip to Washington tomorrow. The scene of Haqqani celebrating the F-16 deal, a long-awaited accomplishment of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, amid the backdrop of the rumors of his sacking, show the complicated dynamic surrounding him.

Hillary: Don't Sweat Pakistan's Nukes
October 12, 2009

AFP quotes the traveling Secretary of State on what might be the most important national security question of all, and one we should re-examine in the wake of this weekend's Taliban attack on Pakistani Army HQ: "Yesterday was another reminder that extremists ...

Meanwhile on the Cable Nets
October 09, 2009

Fox and MSNBC have been airing a freeway chase in the Dallas area for the better part of the last two hours. As a friend writes: Man, those guys know what people want on a Friday afternoon.

Obama on the Prize: "A Call to Action"
October 09, 2009

Classy and well-played. He makes it about others, not himself, and effectively admits that he doesn't deserve it: I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee.  Let me be clear:  I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

Whose Fault Is the AfPak Confusion?
October 09, 2009

Kevin Drum thinks people, including myself, are being too hard on the Obama team when it comes to AfPak policymaking: If [Rajiv] Chandrasekar's account is correct, the fault isn't really with the Obama administration at all.  It's with the military: McKiernan was on board with the counterinsurgency strategy but didn't indicate that he needed more troops to implement it.... Later, of course, McKiernan was pushed out and a new commander took a fresh look at what resources were needed.  But that hardly reflects badly on Obama, and it doesn't really sound like anyone screwed up back in March.  Lo

Obama's Nobel: Mixed Blessing at Best
October 09, 2009

It’s not often that the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize wonders whether he actually wants it. But that thought must have crossed Barack Obama’s mind when he was awoken at 6 a.m. this morning and told the stunning news. For Obama, winning the award after just nine months in office—for having created “a new international climate” of peace—is, at best, a mixed blessing.

AfPak Confusion at the White House
October 08, 2009

Afghanistan is a challenge that would bedevil even the finest foreign policy makers. But today's big stories in the Post and Times paint a somewhat discouraging picture of the Obama team's handling of the war. The Post depicts an administration whose initial policy review reached conclusions that meant different things to different people. And the Times reveals a re-review that is addressing fundamental questions which probably should have been settled months ago.

About That 3 a.m. Call...
October 07, 2009

During the 2008 primaries an infamous Hillary Clinton ad warned that Barack Obama was unprepared for that hypothetical middle-of-the-night phone call announcing an international crisis and demanding a fast and decisive response. But real life is now demonstrating that national security decision-making is, with rare exceptions, something completely different. Obama's Afghanistan policy deliberations aren't about emergency phone calls and snap decisions.