USA Today finds that under the new American commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, NATO airstrikes are down 50 percent. Unfortunately Afghans are probably far more aware of last week's airstrike in Kunduz--Afghan officials now say 30 civilians were killed--than they are of that statistaic.

The Truman No-Show

In 1949, a year after the state of Israel was created, its Chief Rabbi visited President Harry Truman in Washington. Isaac Halevi Herzog told Truman that his role in helping the Jewish state achieve its independence was not just a matter of politics and diplomacy; it was a divine mission.


I suppose it's good that the Swat Valley Taliban spokesman has been captured, but I have to question the wisdom of luring in people under the guise of negotiations and then snatching them. If we really are serious about trying to cut deals with some Taliban elements, it's probably not wise to give them reason to suspect any outreach might be a trap. Relatedly, Carl Levin had this complaint in today's NYT: Mr. Levin said the administration needed to adopt a plan to separate low- and midlevel insurgents from hard-core Taliban fighters and commanders.


Holbrooke v Miliband

Uh-oh: Allegations of voter fraud in Afghanistan may be creating a rift between the United States and Britain. Appearing on the BBC, US special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke had remarkably different things to say about the situation in Afghanistan than British Foreign Secretary David Miliband did. Downplaying the election controversy in Afghanistan, Mr. Holbrooke characterized the rampant allegations of fraud as the sloppy, but normal side effects of democracy. Mr. Miliband said free and fair are not how his government would describe the elections.


Via the WSJ: "I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress," Ms. Pelosi told reporters. Meawhile Carl Levin is adopting a "stand them up so we can stand down" position. And things are sounding awfully reminiscent of the Iraq war circa 2004-2005. Meanwhile, I am told John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold hearings on Afghanistan next week to consider a range of different options for U.S. military policy there.

Just as the Obama administration gears up to rally international support for tough sanctions on Iran, Moscow says they're not needed: Just a day after U.S. officials warned that Iran may already have enough enriched uranium to make a bomb if processed further, Mr. Lavrov said negotiations should begin without any imposed timetable. He also said that even if Iran tried to make weapons-grade fuel it would be detected and there would be time to respond. "I do not think those sanctions will be approved by the United Nations Security Council," Mr.


Listen Up

One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what’s celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense. Writing such stuff makes people successful and gives them an audience of millions.


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?