Friday, November 6, 2009

A Very Bad Week for the Allied Militaries

First, the Afghanistan runoff falls apart, left with Karzai in place and fewer incentives to govern better, despite the harsh words from the Brits.

some American and European officials are pressing for at least a few arrests of what one administration official called “the more blatantly corrupt” people in the Afghan government. Administration officials declined to provide the names of people they wanted to see arrested and acknowledged that such arrests were a long shot. The international community’s wish list of potential defendants includes Mr. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade; Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is accused of involvement in the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners of war early in the Afghan conflict; and one of Mr. Karzai’s running mates, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a former defense minister who is also suspected of drug trafficking

Second, an Afghan police officer kills 5 British soldiers.

Third, an American officer kills more than a dozen other Americans at Fort Hood.  It is too early to know really well what happened, but the combined facts are just horrible: that the suspect is an officer, a psychologist whose main job was to deal with soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome, has a Muslim name and was wearing traditional garb earlier in the day, and was upset about being sent to Afghanistan (although he would have faced minimal danger there, probably spending all of his time on a base).  Just horrible for those who were hurt or killed and those related to them, but also a huge challenge to the Army as it has flashbacks to the fragging incidents during and after Vietnam, and to Obama and Gates as they try to figure out what to do next in Afghanistan. 

I keep on hearing that as Afghanistan goes, so goes Obama's election chances.  I still doubt that very much as the economy will still matter more, and I think people will generally assess Afghanistan in light of the difficulties and the fact that Obama inherited that war (and will have managed to extricate the US from Iraq, even if Iraq then falls apart).  Moreover, the competition does matter, and the Republicans seem content to feed on themselves.  Still, Afghanistan is going to be a burden for the entire term and beyond.  There are no easy solutions, and I have struggled to justify staying and reinforcing.  The lack of any good alternatives seems to be the best reason to stick around a while longer, but Karzai is making that exceedingly difficult.

Perhaps the best option is to try to focus as much effort at the local levels, and mitigate what Kabul is doing.

But definitely a depression week.

1 comment:

Roman said...

I thought Steve Coll's perspective on the Afghan runoff failure refreshing. It may lighten the depression a bit.