Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Discouraging News from Afghanistan

I’ve been saying for a while (see e.g., here and here) that the war in Afghanistan is likely to weigh Obama down heavily in the next election.  The Democratic base never had much patience for a prolonged military adventure in Afghanistan to begin with, even less when a lack of progress stopped being a cudgel to use on George Bush.  And nine years of any war is enough to try the patience of people across the political spectrum (see this somewhat surprising expression of disaffection from the right). 

So I figure that Obama’s likely to start seeing serious defections on his left flank (maybe even a primary challenge) and increasing resistance from independents and Republicans even if the military facts on the ground are getting better. Recall that substantial military progress in Vietnam didn’t stop the Democratic base from driving Lyndon Johnson out of the 1968 presidential race or the "silent majority" from electing Richard Nixon on the promise that he'd get American soldiers out of harm's way. 

But what if, despite Obama's troop surge, the facts on the ground in Afghanistan are getting worse?

You can’t read this Wall Street Journal story without contemplating that possibility:
“Nine years after a U.S.-led invasion routed almost all of al Qaeda's surviving militants in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's network is gradually returning.

“Over the past six to eight months, al Qaeda has begun setting up training camps, hideouts and operations bases in the remote mountains along Afghanistan's northeastern border with Pakistan, some U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials say. The stepped-up infiltration followed a U.S. pullback from large swatches of the region starting 18 months ago. The areas were deemed strategically irrelevant and left to Afghanistan's uneven security forces, and in some parts, abandoned entirely.

“American commanders have argued that the U.S. military presence in the remote valleys was the main reason why locals joined the Taliban. Once American soldiers left, they predicted, the Taliban would go, too. Instead, the Taliban have stayed put, a senior U.S. military officer said, and ‘al Qaeda is coming back.’"

1 comment:

Mean Voter said...

Maybe Obama will reverse course on Afghanistan and change the strategy before the next election. I should think that the strategy has to be reevaluated constantly anyway. If it's not working, and if it is deemed a rather hopeless situation -- we all know that Afghanistan and Iraq are very different countries -- Obama could decide to change course, remove troops, and just bomb the hell out of Al Queda whenever they assemble training camps. I can't say that this alternative is bad.

I think that the chances are good for a change in course. At least with the trial of 9/11 mastermind, the administration has seen the wisdom of trying him in Gitmo, rather than federal courts. Even though Holder blamed Congress, at least the Administration figured out what was the better course of action.

We can only hope that Obama is able to change course when the vital interests of our country are at stake.

We'll also see if he does so with respect to ObamaCare and the budget.