Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama's Afghan Response

It looks like after a review lasting for many months and 10 high level meetings, President Obama is likely to order around 30K new soldiers to the theater. The number is more than this blogger felt some time back - around 10K. But as everyone says, number is not the issue. The issue is what these soldiers would do.

The two best takes on this response are by - Fred Kaplan and Joe Klein. I agree with Klein who basically points the centrality of Pakistan to the whole affair of stabilizing Afghanistan. To repeat again, stabilizing Pakistan is the necessary condition for a peaceful Afghanistan and subsequent vanquishing of any terrorist threat emanating from that corner of the world. If President determines that 30K troops are needed to achieve this containment of Pakistan, then so be case; America needs to send that many troops. Erring on more number of soldiers is not bad either even if many Liberals want to point the cost factor and borrowed money.

The question is will this increase solve the Pakistan problem. Not really. What these increased troops would do is to help pacify Afghanistan so that trouble makers in Pakistan get lesser opportunities to create problems. Relatively peaceful Afghanistan, where General Petreous and General McChrystal have bought peace with less radical Talibans and few other Pashtun leaders, would allow America to continue to focus on Pakistan and let many policies to start working in Pakistan. The policies of America in question are those espoused by Hillary Clinton and Kerry-Lugar bills - the carrot and stick approach to align national interests of Pakistan away from expediency of using terrorism. Devolving the power of nuke buttons to Pakistani PM from Pakistani President is one right step in that direction. Calming down South Waziristan is another one. Getting China involved indirectly and getting their buy-ins is another one. All these measures will start helping more if Afghanistan is more peaceful and if 30K additional troops would help there, it is that much better.

Between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so many things are interlinked that it is hard to isolate which is the cause and which is the effect. So better is to locate things which are 'actionable' for America so by acting upon that you start the chain reaction of positive outcomes. Sending soldiers is relatively straight forward 'actionable' item though expensive (blood and dollars). Actionable items on Pakistan side are relatively tough. Hence, one has to support President Obama's policy of sending more troops now, even if it is reluctantly one does so.

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