Obama ran for the presidency promising change. The doves sense correctly that Obama’s decision on Afghanistan may well determine how much – if any – substantive change is in the offing.
If the president assents to McChrystal’s request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. The Afghanistan war will continue until the end of his first term and probably beyond. It will consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It will result in hundreds or perhaps thousands more American combat deaths – costs that the hawks are loath to acknowledge.
As the fighting drags on from one year to the next, the engagement of US forces in armed nation-building projects in distant lands will become the new normalcy. Americans of all ages will come to accept war as a perpetual condition, as young Americans already do. That “keeping Americans safe’’ obliges the United States to seek, maintain, and exploit unambiguous military supremacy will become utterly uncontroversial.
If the Afghan war then becomes the consuming issue of Obama’s presidency – as Iraq became for his predecessor, as Vietnam did for Lyndon Johnson, and as Korea did for Harry Truman – the inevitable effect will be to compromise the prospects of reform more broadly.
At home and abroad, the president who advertised himself as an agent of change will instead have inadvertently erected barriers to change. [continued…]
Even as President Obama leads an intense debate over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, administration officials say the United States is falling far short of his goals to fight the country’s endemic corruption, create a functioning government and legal system and train a police force currently riddled with incompetence.
Interviews with senior administration and military officials and recent reports assessing Afghanistan’s progress show that nearly seven months after Mr. Obama announced a stepped-up civilian effort to bolster his deployment of 17,000 additional American troops, many civil institutions are deteriorating as much as the country’s security.
Afghanistan is now so dangerous, administration officials said, that many aid workers cannot travel outside the capital, Kabul, to advise farmers on crops, a key part of Mr. Obama’s announcement in March that he was deploying hundreds of additional civilians to work in the country. The judiciary is so weak that Afghans increasingly turn to a shadow Taliban court system because, a senior military official said, “a lot of the rural people see the Taliban justice as at least something.” [continued…]
No one will ever know how Afghans voted in their country’s presidential elections on Aug. 20, 2009. Seven weeks after the polling, the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is still trying to separate fraudulent tallies from ballots. In some provinces, many more votes were counted than were cast. E.U. election monitors characterize 1.5 million votes as suspect, which would include up to one-third of the votes cast for incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Once fraud occurs on the scale of what took place in Afghanistan, it is impossible to untangle.
Afghanistan’s fraudulent elections complicate President Obama’s job as he weighs a recommendation from General Stanley McChrystal, his top commander there, to send as many as 40,000 additional troops to support a beefed-up counterinsurgency strategy. But for that strategy to work, the U.S. needs a credible Afghan partner, which Afghanistan’s elections now seem unlikely to produce. [continued…]
A top United Nations official acknowledged publicly for the first time on Sunday that the country’s presidential election had been marred by “widespread fraud,” but said he has worked to ensure that the irregularities get documented.
Flanked by the ambassadors to the United States, Britain, France and Germany at a news conference, Kai Eide, the top United Nations official here, affirmed that the Aug. 20 election was tainted but insisted that he had pursued all claims of fraud that he was able to verify
“There was widespread fraud, but any specific figure would be pure speculation,” he said.
His remarks were intended to rebuff allegations by his former deputy that he was covering up fraud to benefit President Hamid Karzai. The deputy, the American diplomat Peter Galbraith, was fired this month after making his accusation public. [continued…]
The mastermind of the militant assault on Saturday that shook the heart of the Pakistani military was behind two other major attacks in the last two years, and the police had specifically warned the military in July that such an audacious raid was being planned, police and intelligence officials said Sunday.
The revelation of prior warning was sure to intensify scrutiny of Pakistan’s ability to fight militants, after nine men wearing army uniforms breached the military headquarters complex in Rawalpindi and held dozens hostage for 20 hours until a commando raid ended the siege. In all, 16 people were killed, including eight of the attackers, the military said.
The surviving militant, who was captured early Sunday morning, was identified as Muhammad Aqeel, who officials said was a former soldier and the planner of this attack and others. Mr. Aqeel, who is also known as Dr. Usman because he had once worked with the Army Medical Corps before dropping out about four years ago, is believed to be a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. [continued…]