The Corner

When Exactly Did Afghanistan Become ‘Settled Enough’?

Abdullah Abdullah has decided he will not face Hamid Karzai in a reelection re-vote this week because, by his lights, it will be as corrupt an election as took place this summer. This morning, the New York Times reports that:

Advisers to President Obama called Mr. Abdullah’s decision a personal choice that would not greatly affect American policy and was in line with the Afghan Constitution. They portrayed the election of Mr. Karzai as essentially settled enough that Mr. Obama could move forward with deciding whether to send as many as 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, with an announcement that probably remains at least three weeks away. 

“Every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway, so we are going to deal with the government that is there,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said of Mr. Abdullah on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Okay, with this decision from Abdullah and these statements out of the White House it is total Keystone Koppery on Afghanistan right now. Does anyone have a memory that goes back to last month? Does anyone recall the urgency of John Kerry twisting Karzai’s arm to have new elections while he issued talking points mimicked by the administration that no forces could be increased in Afghanistan until — at a minimum — there was a new election that could prove the stability and legitimacy of the government there?

Many of us at the time said this was a stalling tactic — that the administration had never used the election before, during, or immediately after as a reason to send or reduce more troops. Now, we are to take it that the administration never thought a new election would matter anyway – “settled enough” is how they now describe it in hindsight. This is cynicism in foreign and defense policy at its worst, grasping at any straw to find an argument that works with the American people while time is purchased at the expense of a bad argument that not even those making the argument ever believed.

— Seth Leibsohn is a fellow of the Claremont Institute.