Bin Laden Follow-Up: Obama Administration Frets About Withdrawal from Afghanistan & Tensions with Pakistan (But, Hey, We Sure Showed Iran)
UPDATE 0730 GMT: The Obama Administration's top journalist accomplices this morning? Reveal yourself, the editors and reporter Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post....
The headline blares, "Afghans Worry Bin Laden’s Death Could Weaken U.S. Resolve", and Partlow writes, "One persistent worry repeated here was that U.S. support for the war could erode at an accelerated pace now that America’s most wanted man is dead. With that decade-long goal achieved, Afghan officials said, the case for troop withdrawal becomes that much more convincing for Americans."
And how many Afghans does Partlow quote in what is effectively a PR piece for a continued US military presence?
Two. A "senior Afghan official" says, "Americans will forget Afghanistan again.” And Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s former interior minister, declares, “A warning to the United States and the rest of our NATO allies. This should not be seen as mission accomplished.”
Indeed, so intent is The Post on pushing this case that it includes, without apparent recognition, a quote that says something completely different:
President Hamid Karzai, who praised American troops for killing bin Laden, used the opportunity to reiterate his message that the locus of terrorism remains beyond Afghan borders. “For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses. Stop bombarding Afghan villages and searching Afghan people.”
For some reason, I think that statement sends a far different message to the US military than "Please. Stay."
Amidst the pages and mega-bytes devoted this morning to a recitation of the attack upon Osama bin Laden, the significant story is of an Obama Administration trying to prevent any sudden moves, such as a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. A New York Times team summarises:
The killing of Osama bin Laden deep in Pakistan is sure to fuel the debate over the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan, where 100,000 troops are still fighting a war to destroy Al Qaeda. And the raid, conducted without the cooperation or even advance knowledge of Pakistan, raised fresh doubts about the lengthy American effort to turn it into a trustworthy partner in the hunt for terrorists.
Obama's officials are already in post-bin Laden action, telling journalists "privately" that pressure will grow for US soldiers to come out of Afghanistan and then trying to blunt that possibility. John Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, played the Osama card even as bin Laden was being buried at sea: he said at a press conference on that the large troop presence in Afghanistan was necessary to prevent that country from again becoming a “launching point” for Al Qa'eda.
Another "senior administration official" put out the message through the Times: “I hope people are going to feel, on a bipartisan basis, that when you move the ball this far it’s crazy to walk off the field.”
Other officials in Washington downplayed the military issue, saying that the US is already moving away from a counterinsurgency strategy toward "more limited objectives" and political reconciliation with the Taliban. And in Kabul, Obama's envoy Marc Grossman declared that the US had no intention of establishing permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
The Administration is also trying to limit any furour over relations with Pakistan, after the US military initially said it gave no intelligence to its supposed Pakistani allies about the assault on bin Laden. While Brennan acknowledged a lack of trust in Islamabad, Obama called Pakistiani President Asif Ali Zardari --- who has written an opinion piece in The Washington Post today, even though he has not spoken to his people about the bin Laden affair --- to give reassurances. Envoy Grossman is now in Islamabad for previously scheduled between the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Still, amidst its concerns, the Obama Administration could put out a bit of political silver lining for the stories of military success:
Officials pointed to one unexpected benefit of the raid: American allies in the Persian Gulf believe that Iran may be chastened, however temporarily, by evidence of a forceful operation by the United States to protect its national security interests — and one that required violating the sovereignty of another nation.