Foreign Policy

The Ambassador from Indecision


The Washington Post provides a closer look at the advice from the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan which fed into Obama's decision not to decide (which does, to be sure, mean that he still has made a choice) exactly what we will or won't be doing in the short-term when it comes to troops in Afghanistan:

The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise, senior U.S. officials said….

After a top-level meeting on the issue Wednesday afternoon…the White House issued a statement that appeared to reflect [ambassador Karl] Eikenberry's concerns.

"The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan government that our commitment is not open-ended," the statement said. "After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time."

Here's to non-open-ended commitments, to war or nation building or whatever it is that's going on over there.

NEXT: Marty Beckerman is Feeling Much Better Now...

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  1. “After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time.”

    (holds breath)

  2. “After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time.”

    Or else…?

    1. Operation Re-Enduring Freedom

  3. The Ambassador from Indecision

    If anyone thinks we’re getting out of there anytime soon, that makes them the King of Wishful Thinking. With all the horrible music that goes along with it.

  4. Is it just me or does it seem like Obama is trying to put off Afghanistan until he gets healthcare and can then screw his leftwing supporters with impunity?

    1. I don’t think he’s putting anything off for healthcare reform. I think that getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq sounded totally excellent before the election. The view from the oval office is a bit more based in reality than the view from the stump on the campaign trail. or

      Indecision on Afghanistan is based upon the fact that “this shit is hard.”

      1. You are right. I give him too much credit. He really doesn’t know what to do and was completely talking out of his ass during the election. I guess he didn’t bother to worry about what he would do if he actually won.

      2. Can’t I just vote present on this one?

      3. I think that getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq sounded totally excellent before the election.

        But he never campaigned on getting out of Afghanistan. On the contrary, he campaigned on Afghanistan as being “the good war”, which probably accounts for at least some of his indecision.

        1. Yeah. He campaigned on getting out of Iraq. How’s that coming along anyway?

        2. joe the boyle spent page after page of blog space arguing that Iraq was diverting attention from the real war in Afghanistan.

          1. Uh huh. They said all that shit and now have boxed themselves in. Obama can hardly pull out of Afghanistan after running around claiming it was the good and necessary war that Bush was losing because of Iraq.

            The sad fact is that all of the bullshit the left put out about Iraq has some truth to it when applied to Afghanistan. Al Quada isn’t in Afghanistan anymore. Being there is perhaps distracting us from fighting elsewhere. We are intervening in a civil war and trying to build a country where there has been one before. Afghanistan, more so than Iraq, would have benefited from some new thinking. But thanks to dipshits like Joe Boyle and the Democratic Party lying for five years, Obama can’t do that.

    2. Maybe. I think the problem for any Democrat administration is that leaving perfectly good wars like Iraq and Afghanistan means when everything falls apart (as it will, since both places are basket cases) then the Democrats will be blamed for loosing them, the way Repubs did over China, Vietnam, etc. The admin desperately wants a reasonably stable government in both places they can turn the problem over to and then leave but I don’t think it’s going to happen. What will probably happen, assuming locals and other interested parties don’t militarily defeat us, is the US govt settles for a slow simmer, all the while promising the American people that while conditions aren’t right just yet for withdrawal, soon they will be – just after the next Presidential and/or midterm elections. The spin will be that Repubs aren’t supporting our troops enough, have unrealistic goals, etc. Dem supporters will be asked to be patient.

      1. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel . . . . .

        1. They just have to explain to Americans that them Islams ain’t ready to act like grown ups and we have done all we can to help. In the interest of not sacrificing more Americans for a War that Bush clearly refused to see was doomed to fail because of his interest in maximising profits for big oil, we are pulling our valient troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. We understand that the country will likely fall into chaos for a time but we understand that we cannot force improvements on a nation that is willing to cooperate with terrorist groups like Al Quada and the Taliban.

          1. So brother ben, are you old enough to get the reference?

            1. Which reference are you referring to?

              1. You replied to my comment.

                1. I think my reply was placed in the wrong place.


                  In November, as their plans gelled, General Westmoreland embarked on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. to testify before Congress and drum up support for the Johnson Administration. “With 1968,” he said, speaking before the National Press Club in Washington, “a new phase is starting .. we have reached an important point where the end begins to come into view.” In a televised news conference, he used the phrase “light at the end of the tunnel” to describe improved U.S. fortunes, repeating almost word- for-word a prognostication made by French General Henri Navarre in May of 1953.

                  1. Thanks for the link. I am not old enough to remember that and don’t recall seeing it before.

                    1. I was 11 in ’68. It was a part of my every-day lexion until we abandoned Vietnam in ’74 — two years before I could have been drafted.

                    2. Nice.

                      Except the draft was ended in 1973.

                  2. Didn’t the Carter administration use that one often during the hostage crisis? Especially just before the election?

                    1. I don’t recall that one, but it fits with Carter 😉

                    2. “I don’t recall…”

                      I think that was a Reagan chant.

                    3. I think so to. But didn’t Clinton or maybe Hillary Clinton say “I don’t recall” some rediculous number of times during one of the Star depositions?

                  3. But, there is one slight difference.

                    If we’d let the south Vietnamese army invade on the ground, and given them air support, they could have knocked the north out. Game over. It was an option but the US decided to pussy-foot around China, and what it “might” do. Which was in fact little of nothing, given the Cultural Revolution and other BS that Chairman Mao was engaged in.

                    In Afghanistan there is no similar scenario one could image, where any kind of success is possible.

                    Unless, that is, you’re willing to go into the mountain region of south Afghanistan/north Pakistan, and spend about five years shooting anything you find on two legs. Which we aren’t going to do.

                    The only rational thing to do with Afghanistan is pull out at least three years ago. But democratic politics still will not allow us to pull out three years from now.

      2. They don’t want to be seen as the guys who lost the war. I think Iraq is going to be stable. I don’t think Afghanistan ever will be without some serious new and drastic thinking like legalizing herione, or just paying off the Taliban.

        1. I don’t think Iraq will be stable without US forces propping up the regime, elected or no. You’ll note we still have 130K troops there.

          How long till the Iraqi gov’t can stand on it’s own two feet?

          1. They need to stay there until the next Republican president can justify invading Saudi Arabia.

          2. Iraq will not be stable because Iran is already licking their chops and waiting for us to leave. The southern part of Iraq will be up for grabs and all the oil that goes with it.

        2. We already did pay off the Taliban, without calling it that. I remember the May before 911 when Colin Powell made a speech while handing $43M in drought relief to the Afghans–money which largely went through the Taliban’s hands–the substance of the speech being their terrific work banning opium production.

          ”We will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans, …including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome.”

          Powell did condemn the Taliban in the same speech, saying:

          “We provide our relief to the people of Afghanistan, not to Afghanistan’s ruling factions. Our aid bypasses the Taliban, who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it.”

          And it is true that the money was meant to go to Afghan farmers through the UN, but with 90% of Afghanistan under Taliban control in May 2001, the money ended up back in Taliban hands anyway. I find it strains credulity to believe that the US State Department though the money would not end up in Taliban hands. Worse, the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention sent a report to the Security Council at that time making the case that the Taliban was cutting opium production to keep the price up, and that if they were serious about banning opium they would have destroyed the tons of stored product from the 3 or 4 years before. The point was supported by their observation that even with the opium ‘ban’, Tajikistan reported an overall increase in Afghan opium traffic in that time frame.

          One might also say that with the US funding of mujahedin operations and armaments against the USSR and subsequent CIA/ISI co-creation of the Taliban from the mujahedin, the US has a long history of paying them off.

  5. He’s already screwing his supporters with impunity, John. Why do you think none of them even show their virtual faces around here, ever? He shafted them harder than Steve Smith and they know it, and if they show up we’ll ream them harder than Warty reaming NutraSweet. It actually takes the fun out of it. Just one more thing to thank Obama for.

    1. He certainly has made them all look like fools. I thought GUITMO was another Auszwitz and getting out of Iraq the fiercest moral urgency of our time?

      1. As soon as he puts the first Banking or Pharma executive in there all will be forgiven.

    2. But boy, doesn’t it feel good now to know that we really screwed those Republicans over in the last election? Because godDAMN they deserved it.

      I mean, doesn’t screwing the Republicans make you feel like it’s worth the pain of enduring whatever Obama does to us now?

      I mean doesn’t it?

  6. As soon as all the poppies are gone, the Taliban will have no more funds, and then we bring our soldiers home.

    That means McCain’s “100 Years War” was an optimistic scenario.

    1. Legalize heroin. Give the rights to grow poppies and sell the stuff in America to any Afghani who agrees not to support the Taliban on pain of death. Then tax the shit and use the funds plus the money saved from no longer having 100,000 troops in Afghanistan to bring down the deficit. What is not to love?

      1. You are all about more taxes, eh?

        1. I just don’t like stoners. They think jail sucks. Wait until they have to pay taxes on the stuff. They will be screaming to make it illegal again.

          1. What’ll ye be goin’ off on next? The birds and the bloody flowers?

          2. I think it’s important to note that John suggested “taxing the shit”, not “taxing the shit out off it”. Reasonable taxes on newly legal drugs isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

            But looking at the way alcohol and cigs are getting taxed in order to basically ban them…well, that’s not gonna solve anything.

            Besides, if Obama legalizes any drugs, they wouldn’t be taxed. They’d just have a significant gov’t surcharge (or whatever the favored euphamism is now).

            1. I agree. i support taxing it. You are right, if the taxes are too high you just push it underground. Honestly, I don’t know that you can get much revenue out of pot. The stuff is too easy to grow yourself. But you could get revenue out of heroin.

              1. Its easy to brew beer and I do, but I buy it too.

                Plenty of people arent going to “work that hard”.

                1. BEER THREAD!

              2. Well, easy is relative. Easier than orchids maybe, but still tougher than hot peppers. I’m just tired of everyone assuming you can toss some seeds on the ground and come back later to a field of sticky green.

                Now, if everyone grew their own i’d just expect to see taxes on HID lighting, elevated electricity use (oops too late for that one), and everything they sell at growshops.

                Of course, anyone with true grit will just go to homedepot instead and spend 1/2 as much. A street-light fixture or two, halide and sodium bulbs, some PVC. BAM, Personal Stash Generator for ~$100 and some construction time.

                So, i agree, there’s not much revenue to be made. But think of the money SAVED or CREATED by not investigating and prosecuting pot charges anymore.

                1. The stuff seems to grow wild pretty easily. Perhaps it is easy to grow bad weed. I would imagine it is hard to grow really good stuff.

                  1. Pretty much Spot-On.

                    1. Alas, my sarcasm tags were invisible.

                    2. And nobody got my “Life of Brian” adaptation.

                    3. I got the Life of Brian reference, just didn’t comment on it.

          3. Taxes haven’t prevented them from buying snacks.

  7. decision not to decide (which does, to be sure, mean that he still has made a choice)

    Ah, Neal Peart. So much better than the obligatory The Who reference, plus especially relevant on a libertarian blog.

  8. “Why are things between us always so, like, goal-oriented? Can’t we just be here together and hold each other?”

    “Dude, I’m Afghanistan. You’re creeping me out.”

  9. I know adding more zeros to the budget seems to work everytime, but there has to be some sort of finacial limit to these wars. till the end of the Empire?

    1. At the current pace (about 600 billion), the defense budget will be 6 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s serious cash.

  10. “The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan government that our commitment is not open-ended,” the statement said. “After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time.”

    Our commitment is not open ended! A vague and unfalsifiable event could cause our commitment to end!

  11. Meh. Declare victory and come home.

    Finish up with a vigorous round of rocketing and bombing of terrorist bases on both sides of the Paki border, as a reminder of what we can and will do if they bother us again.

    Get out of Iraq on schedule. Perhaps finish up with a naval exercise off their coastal oil depots, as a reminder of what we can and will do if they bother us again.

    Let the Afghans Iraqis rot, I say.

  12. I have a cunning plan: Give Afghanistan to Russia. And give Iraq minus Kurdistan to Turkey. Or maybe Israel, if we really want to bust some balls.

    1. You know, I like that idea a lot. But I might keep a few of those Iraqi oil fields for myself.

      I’ve said from the beginning, we should take oil from Iraq until it generates enough revenue to pay for the cost of the war.

      And if we did the same thing with poppy in Afghanistan, we could put a serious dent in that national debt of ours.

  13. “The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan government that our commitment is not open-ended,” the statement said. “After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time.”

    Didn’t Obama’s campaign rhetoric already make this clear?

    Oh, right, only liberals still believe anything Obama says.

  14. Based on his history, it’s clear the O is waiting for something/someone to take the decision out of his hands.  Maybe a huge bomb going off somewhere, or a decisive move by some other government (Russia?).

    One thing for sure:  He won’t make any decision all by himself.

    1. Ah, so Obama is waiting for something to force his hand, to maximize the appearance of weakness.

      Good plan. What could possibly go wrong? And in the meantime, what’s a few dozen (or hundred) dead Marines?

      1. A few more heroes for him to babble about in a press statement.

        But if he can get something or someone to take the decision out of his hands, then (he dreams) it won’t be his fault and he won’t look bad.

  15. We should get out of Afghanistan and Iraq both. Years ago if not sooner.

    But Afghanistan still poses a serious question: what should we have done different?

    They AQ set up training camps. From that base they were able to pull of 9/11. Now there are similar training camps in north Pakistan. What do we do about that? Invade north Pakistan, kick the shit out of things for a while, and then leave?

    The minute we leave Afghanistan they’ll be building new training camps over there again. Odds are that this time, we won’t know it until it’s too late.

    If I was president, I don’t know what I’d have done with Afghanistan. They needed a serious ass-kicking. But be real. These guys can just run across the border to Pakistan and hang out until the coast is clear. Which is exactly what they’ve done.

    So what good did it do us to invade Afghanistan in the first place?

  16. btw, I take serious issue with the idea that we’re doing now (or have ever done) anything that even approximates “nation building”, in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

    Neither country has had what we would judge to be a reasonable, rational government. They have no f***ing idea what such a government would look like.

    You want to nation build in a place like that? The first step is shit-canning the whole “democracy” thing. You don’t ask the opinions of these people. You don’t allow them to have opinions.

    What you do is impose a stable system of law and order on them, backed up by M1’s and whatever else gets serious attention from wide-eyed natives. You impose law and order quite harshly, until they learn that the rules are simple. Break the laws we’ve established and we’ll blow your f***ing head off. End of rules.

    Do this for about four or five years. Be exceedingly harsh on law breakers, but at the same time be quite fair with those who are not law breakers.

    In five year’s time you’d have a sizable fraction of the population saying “gee, this isn’t so bad”. They might even start believing in themselves. At which point you can start training the natives, so they’ve got their own contingents of police and military forces.

    In time maybe then you can let them take over everything for themselves.

    The cost would be outrageous. But it would at least amount to a rational plan.

    Instead what we have is all the cost, with no semblance of sanity to go with it.

    Nation-building isn’t worth the cost, unless you’re really out to incorporate what invade into your empire. And that’s not what we’re ever going to be up to.

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