Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


« Ali Fisher on State Department Twitter-Diplomacy | Main | The Israeli Invasion of Gaza: Rolling Updates (14 Jan --- Evening) »

Simon Toner: Obama Dashes into an Afghanistan Quagmire

Simon Toner from Dublin is very worried that, days before his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama is creating his first foreign-policy nightmare: Afghanistan.

Many supporters of Barack Obama were disheartened by his endorsement, toward the end of his presidential campaign, of an Iraq-like surge for Afghanistan. Some of those people might have gained solace from the news that, according to yesterday's Washington Post, the incoming administration has now acknowledged that the surge is unlikely to significantly change the state of play in Afghanistan.

It's a false consolation. Far from making the obvious conclusion that it might be best not to pursue a surge which will fail, the Obama administration still intends to send 30,000 additional troops, doubling the US presence in the country. The reason? Not because it will work, but in to buy time for the US and its NATO allies to develop a successful strategy.

"We have no strategic plan. We never had one," a "senior US military commander" says. This is a significant admission and a disturbing one. According to the article, the Pentagon and military are not even certain if the correct strategy to follow is conventional war or "the population security strategy", pursued since early 2007 in Iraq.

Certainly the latter approach would be more effective but even this will have little impact on the fostering of properly functioning institutions that can meet the needs of the Afghan people or address the other important issues that Obama acknowledges. Thus the US is getting deeper into the Afghan quagmire, doubling the number of troops but admitting that it has no strategy for success.

Yes, there are echoes of Vietnam here. From 1961-65 Presidents Kennedy and Johnson continued to commit more troops to South Vietnam, simply to stave off defeat and prop up the failing Saigon regime rather than to pursue a coherent strategy. Unfortunately, in the coming months we may have a repeat. We could end up with more than 60,000 US troops in Afghanistan and still no strategy; not to mention an exit strategy.

As Vietnam and Iraq taught us, it is far easier to get into a war than to get out of one.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>