“We need to hold Afghanistan together.” – Ben Rhodes (interview with Chuck Todd on “Daily Rundown)
THE RECENT comments by Hillary Clinton on Afghanistan didn’t register a blip on anyone’s radar. So when NBC News broke news that a new Afghanistan agreement with the U.S. would include troops inside the country spanning another decade, it wasn’t surprising at all. It certainly gives you an idea of why I made a point of posting on Rosa Brooks’ recent article on Obama and The Generals, as well as why I wrote about Vali Nasr’s book. Whatever foreign policy strategy President Obama walked into Washington with is now pretty much shredded.
The document suggests Afghan negotiators want a long-term U.S. presence, with U.S. forces and contractors providing intelligence, training and funding, but also to keep American forces as confined as possible. It shows Afghans want to keep their U.S. partners, but on their terms. It also suggests the United States is not confident that without a long-term commitment, the Afghan government can bring stability or effectively fight terrorism.
There are rumblings that this possible decision, which isn’t agreed upon yet, is a CYA strategy for the Obama administration. You’ll hear Republicans cite Iraq, claiming that we needed to keep forces there longer, so that applies to Afghanistan. The quote above by Ben Rhodes today isn’t the whole story of both countries and U.S. foreign policy.
Today with Chuck Todd, General Barry McCaffrey was flummoxed over the strategic goal of an extended troop presence in Afghanistan. No military expert can explain Afghanistan unless they see it through the prism of domestic politics, too, which the military doesn’t give one whit about.
Whether President Obama is in CYA mode is really beyond the point of debate and actually part of the job, especially when you’re looking at the current domestic climate in which you’re embroiled, but also to the next presidential election cycle that includes Hillary Clinton, who would never in a million years leave Afghanistan without a U.S. presence.
The US and Afghanistan are close to reaching a draft security agreement that would allow American forces to stay in the country past 2014, Afghan officials have claimed. The deal is critical to Afghanistan’s hopes of stability after western combat troops leave next year.
However any deal would need to include a public apology for past mistakes by American forces from the US government, the Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said on Tuesday, prompting a flat denial from Barack Obama’s top national security aide that any such concession was on the table. An apology would almost certainly be politically controversial in Washington.
Faizi said an apology was part of the negotiations and “would acknowledge the suffering of the Afghan people, recognise mistakes in the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, and guarantee that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated”.
But Susan Rice, the US president’s national security adviser, said: “No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan.”
The U.S. was never going to be able to stop the sectarian violence in Iraq. We won’t be able to stop the fighting in Afghanistan either, and training Afghans remains a ridiculous mission objective, because they simply and obviously have no desire to be trained.
It’s just one reason arm chair foreign policy analysts get so frustrated. Looking at these things from the seats of power in Washington changes the view you’re seeing.
Like it or not, the Administration, as well as Democrats, cannot afford bad international news while at home ACA continues to roil the political fortunes of the Democratic Party.