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Sunday Talk: Obama’s Afghan Challenge


President Obama’s new Afghan policy was the lead story on the weekend talk-shows. In case you missed them, here are some choice quotes from Sunday that you’ll need to know for Monday.

AEI’s Fred Kagan (via FNC’s Journal Editorial Report):

Well, I think it gives us a reasonable prospect of success. And I think General McChrystal has made it clear that he’s very comfortable with this, and one of the reasons for that is that the president has dramatically accelerated the time line for the deployment of those additional forces. We’ve previously been talking about sort of a brigade a quarter, spread out over four or five quarters, which is really too slow a pace to achieve any kind of decisive effect. But now we’re talking about getting most of the forces in by May or June and maybe one brigade coming in a little later. That makes a very big difference.

NSA adviser Gen. Jim Jones (via CNN’s State of the Union):

The president’s decision on 2011 has more to do with the transition than anything else. We want to see over the next two years more Afghan capacity developed quicker — under the rule of law in the government, less corruption, better leaders at the provincial levels and in the ministerial levels. We want to see responsibility taken by the Afghans themselves in increasing doses — more visibility of the Afghan army, better training for the Afghan police. And in 2011, when we achieve those goals over these two-year periods, we will be able to see more Afghanization of this problem, and we will be able to make some withdrawals of our own troops, because they’ll be more capable. . . It is not a cliff. It’s a glide slope.

ABC’s George Will (via ABC’s This Week):

This is not the McChrystal plan. Let me say this in defense of the president: McChrystal proposed essentially nation-building, meeting the needs of the Afghan people — his words — by, with and through the almost non-existent Afghan government. This is not that. This is an increase in forces in order to constrict the mission. But, this is going to be harder than it was in Iraq. In Iraq, you had a literate society. You had a society with a middle class. But more important, when our surge began in Iraq, the tide had already turned. There had been the Sunni awakening in Anbar. They had turned against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who were largely foreign fighters. The Taliban are there. When you asked Secretary Gates about the Helmand operation, he said, very tellingly, it’s going very well wherever the Marines are present. . . They won’t be there forever.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) (via NBC’s Meet the Press):

The rationale for war is to break the enemy’s will. That’s the whole rationale for war.  Do you break the enemy’s will by saying, “We’re going to be there,” or send a message we’re going to be there for a year and a half or so and then we’re going to begin to leave, no matter what the circumstances are?  Or do you tell them, “We’re going to win and we’re going to break your will, and then we’re going to leave”?  That’s a huge factor in the conduct of war. . . especially when you’re conducting counterinsurgency.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (via NBC’s Meet the Press):

I was opposed to a deadline in Iraq and, if you’d listen to what I said, that that was a date certain to have all of our forces out of Iraq. I’m opposed to that in Afghanistan as well.  But I believe that there is an important element here of balancing, sending a signal of resolve, but also giving the Afghan government a sense of urgency that they need to get their young men recruited, trained and into the field partnering with our forces and then on their own.  And so I think that the beginning of this process in July 2011 makes a lot of sense, because the other side of it is open.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times (via NBC’s Meet the Press):

The key issue is this, in my view, David:  the surge is happening (and) that Hamid Karzai is both the cause of the surge and the beneficiary.  He’s the cause in that it is his corruption, the crime syndicate that his government turned into, which got many Afghans to turn to the Taliban.  We now have to surge, basically, because he lost his own people.  That’s what’s going on.  And so for me, everything depends on who Karzai is, what kind of government he builds.  Remember, there’s only, there’s only one reason we have a chance left for a decent outcome in Iraq, and it’s because of the awakening in Iraq by Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites to take on their own extremists.  If that does not happen in Afghanistan, if we don’t build a government there that the people want to fight for, defend and be loyal to, nothing else works.  And that’s, to me, what we should be focusing on: how we get in, not when we leave.


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