Thursday, May 13, 2010

Next Steps in Afghanistan

The meeting of Presidents Karzai and Obama is timely as the fighting heats up in Afghanistan with the projected Kandahar offensive starting to take place.  This is now complicated by a fungus that is destroying much of the poppy crop, which would not necessarily be a bad thing if NATO and the US were not bearing the blame.

The new progress report does not give much solace, as there has been only a bit of progress in a few spots.  A key challenge is that the Afghans are expecting the US and its allies to depart.  And I don't blame them.  Not only are the Dutch and the Canadians leaving in the next year or so, but the US has promised to re-evaluate in 2011, and I would not be surprised if Obama basically said that it was time to get out, given how weak the governance side is in Afghanistan. 

Why should we stick around when:
Even as American troops clear areas of militants, they find either no government to fill the vacuum, as in Marja, or entrenched power brokers, like President Karzai’s brother in Kandahar, who monopolize NATO contracts and other development projects and are resented by large portions of the population. NYT
I do think the current effort, the surge, is worthwhile as it gives Afghanistan the best chance to have a future, but I can also recognize that if progress is not made, the country should not become an endless pit of despair for American and NATO resources. 

This article, along with its accompanying graphics, does a nice job of illustrating some of the complexities in play.

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