Back in March 2008, when he was still advising Hillary Clinton and his prospects for returning to government looked slim, Richard Holbrooke wrote a rather hand-wringing Washington Post column about Afghanistan. His core point was that a recent U.S. military victory over the Taliban in the eastern city of Khost threatened to obscure deeper a strategic crisis: There will be more successes like Khost as additional NATO troops, including 3,000 U.S. Marines, arrive later this year.
Calling the tainted election outcome in Afghanistan the "worst outcome" imaginable, counterinsurgency expert and Afghanistan vet Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security warns: When people look back on the Afghanistan war, this might be the moment when historians will judge we should have cut the cord on the Afghan government. If we believe Generals McChrystal and Petraeus, and we believe a counterinsurgency campaign to represent our best chance of success in Afghanistan, then we have a big problem.
In an interview with the Arab network, the defense secretary rules out the notion of a near-term U.S. exit from Afghanistan: Q: But as far as you're concerned -- and I'm just trying to make sure that I've got it right -- as far as you're concerned, what -- basically saying is that any thinking of withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan -- even thinking about it, at this particular point in time, is absolutely out of the question. SEC. GATES: That's my view. But then, with troops in the field, what else is he going to say?
Shiberghan, Afghanistan (one day before the election)—There was no mistaking the general’s “castle.” Its pastel-colored two-storey walls and lapis cupolas shocking amidst the drabness of the surrounding neighborhood. Somewhere inside the compound was General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the most notorious of Afghanistan’s warlords. In almost three decades as a militia leader, Dostum has earned a reputation for ruthless brutality towards enemies, as well as an opportunist’s disregard for alliances, which have shifted without notice.
I'm a bit late getting to this, but over the holiday weekend famous Iraq war opponent Howard Dean visited Fox News Sunday and weighed in on Afghanistan: CHRIS WALLACE: Governor Dean, the president will reportedly decide in the next few weeks whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan. As a leader of the anti-war movement when it came to Iraq, will the liberal wing of the Democratic Party will you support the president if he deepens our commitment in that war? HOWARD DEAN: I'm not so sure I'm the liberal wing, but... I've supported the president on this one.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "From our point of view, Iran's nuclear issue is over." Meaning: No negotiations. Meaning Obama must now decide whether he really wants to pursue those "crippling" sanctions. Watch to see whether the White House gives a green light to Congress to move on sanctions aimed at Iran's gasoline industry later this month. My sense is that people who follow the issue are increasingly resigned to the likelihood that Iran will wind up with at least a "breakout" nuclear capacity regardless of what Obama does at this point.
Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal: "Whether you like it or not, the destinies of the United States and Saudi Arabia are linked and will remain (linked) for decades." A good excuse to re-plug my recent print story on Obama and the Saudis.
Let's face it: Moammar Gadhafi has outsmarted the Western powers, and he has been outsmarting them for exactly forty years. Not outsmarting them, by the way, in behalf of an ideology either collectivist or Islamist—although it aspires to leadership in both orbits. Libya's rise this coming year to the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly is a symbolic victory for the mangy man and his very wealthy country with deprived people. This is a case of kingship with populist and Arabist rhetoric.
Ben Smith has the goods on a letter to Obama from an esteemed roster of neocons--including Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Pete Wehner, Max Boot, Cliff May, Randy Scheunemann, and other familiar fellow travelers--urging him "to fully resource this effort [in Afghanistan and] do everything possible to minimize the risk of failure." But this may not be support the White House actually wants. The effect here will mainly be to brand this war as the latest neocon adventure, driving away yet more of the liberal support that matters most to Obama.
Just out from the White House: Statement by the Press Secretary on Israeli Settlements We regret the reports of Israel's plans to approve additional settlement construction. Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel's commitment under the Roadmap. As the President has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate. We do appreciate Israel's stated intent to place limits