Rep. of Secr’etary-General Kai Eide,
Sen. John Kerry, Pres. Karzai. (via)
NATO’s decision to endorse a broader effort in Afghanistan could be foreshadowing, as the narrower approach to Afghanistan, which Biden championed, shows all signs of being grounded. Gates was at the NATO briefing, which was also attended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Signs the White House is moving towards Gen. McChrystal’s view of the conflict mounted Friday as the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers endorsed the commander’s counterinsurgency strategy and signaled they might be open to modestly increasing their military and civilian contributions to the war effort.
Gen. McChrystal made a surprise visit to the NATO meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, to personally brief the defense chiefs on his strategic thinking. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after the closed-door session that he had heard “broad support from all ministers of this overall counterinsurgency approach,” though he cautioned that the NATO members hadn’t taken a position on Gen. McChrystal’s request for more than 40,000 new U.S. troops.
Like many have been thinking, including myself, there could be a split the difference option in the works, including on troop escalation, though from all I hear troops of the numbers being talked about just aren’t going to do it.
This “hybrid” plan is also used in reference to Iraq, something that makes me even more nervous, as the two countries are not comparable in any way whatsoever, whether you’re talking political challenges, the people, the terrain, or the adversaries we face.
“Terrorists refuse to stay in their lanes,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer in South Asia who led Mr. Obama’s review of Afghan policy earlier this year. “We want to keep them in little boxes; they don’t stay in their boxes. They interact with each other. It’s the syndicate of terrorism that we’re facing in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is so difficult to deal with.”
There’s also the urgency of engaging, utilizing… er.. “co-opting,” though I’m not crazy about that word either, the Taliban into our plan, as Sect. Clinton and others have proposed. We’ve got to join forces with the Taliban if we’re ever going to make progress in Afghanistan, remembering that the Pakistani Taliban is a different beast.
As for the issue of drones, which was a crucial part of Biden’s plan for Afghanistan, signs that this part of the strategy is going to be used smarter to respect the Afghans, as McChrystal has said, is good news. But don’t think for a minute we’ll be cutting off drones cold turkey, as they’re still part of the menu in Central Asia, where there are just too many places forces cannot safely reach. This applies double to Pakistan, especially along the northern Afghan border. On that note, if you haven’t checked out NAF’s drone study, it’s definitely worth your time.