Obama will soon have to make a decision on how the US should proceed in Afghanistan. On the one hand, he can pull out and concentrate on counter-terrorist measures, as Joe Biden is advocating, or on the other, commit more troops and prepare for the long-haul, as General Stanley McChrystal argues. (There are other options available, including dozens of middle of the road alternatives, but these two plans represent the most public strategies.)
Obama should follow Biden's advice. The US invaded Afghanistan eight years ago to close down an important terrorist haven, and now it's closed; according to US military officials, Al Qaeda doesn't operate out of Afghanistan anymore. Of course, if the Taliban is left unchecked, Al Qaeda could always come back. And there's also the threat that the Taliban could distablize a nuclear armed Pakistan.
The US needs to find a way to keep the Taliban in check by stripping away its least ideologically intransigent elements and by balancing what's left against the other regional powers and warlords.
Chart from The Economist.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
By Stephen M.