Yglesias isn't too worried about the Afghan ramp-up. He's right to welcome some clear benchmarks, and the potential for off-ramps if the whole thing deteriorates even further. But I think he's wrong to focus on numbers. 60,000 troops is not a lot of troops compared with our commitment to Iraq right now - but also a tiny number of troops in the vast expanse of Afghanistan. What matters is how they are deployed, and one can only hope that David Brooks is right that they've learned an awful lot since they got there. Then the regional question:
The other interesting point is that “officials said he planned to recast the Afghan war as a regional issue involving not only Pakistan but also India, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian states.” This is exactly right.
As I was saying yesterday you have to at things through some very American-tinted lenses to see a “regional” consisting of Pakistan and Afghanistan somewhere on the map. Pakistan’s “regional” outlook is all about India, and Russia and China see Afghanistan as existing in a “region” of Central Asian states that border them. America’s interests in Afghanistan are narrow and a little bit idiosyncraticrelating to the contingent fact that Osama bin Laden took his operation there about a decade agobut there are also enduring facts of geography and culture that shape other countries’ responses.
But America's relatively tiny stake there means that we will always be outlasted by those with deeper commitments, wider knowledge and much greater fanaticism. And yet we plow on ...
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