Reassessing U.S. Interests in Afghanistan

The McChrystal report leads to debate about how to fight the war, or whether it needs fighting anymore

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Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal has told the Pentagon and NATO that the war in Afghanistan can be won with a revised strategy that does not request more troops be added. But it could also be the general's way of leaning towards asking for more forces. As the war leaves behind its bloodiest month for the United States, the debate is divided between those who think the war is continuing to serve the national interest, and those who don't.

  • This is Obama's War  Financial Times (and Atlantic) columnist Clive Crook said President Obama has wrongly declared Afghanistan to be a "necessary war" to deny al-Qaeda sanctuary because the organization is now in Pakistan. "The ungoverned areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan are anyway not the only such regions in the world. Why put 68,000 troops in Afghanistan and leave other plausible terrorist havens, such as Somalia, to their own devices?" Still, Crook said, the war should be fought because a Taliban victory may destabilize Pakistan and abandoning Afghans would break the promise to defend them.
  • McChrystal's Right  An adviser to the general, Anthony Cordesman, wrote that the war is being lost because the U.S. hasn't provided adequate resources to fight it. What's needed are 2,500 to 5,000 more personnel to develop Afghan security forces that can take responsibility for the country's fate, he wrote. U.S. soldiers need to secure the population and build the the "provincial, district and local government capabilities that the Kabul government cannot and will not build for them," Cordesman said. "Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities" by requesting McChrystal give broad recommendations rather than requests for more men and civil-military plans.
  • Prepared to Go  The New York Times editorial board said it will be nearly impossible to request more money and men from Congress because the Afghan elections were rife with allegations of voter fraud favoring President Karzai. Moreover, Karzai's decision to ally with two men accused of drug trafficking and war crimes is "the wrong way to build the country’s future."
  • More Aid, Less Corruption  Slate's Fred Kaplan wrote last week that Obama realizes the U.S. can't stay the course, but suggested a relatively novel fix to the problem: more money for the Afghan government if it shapes up. Afghans care less whether their president is a crook, and more about whether he provides better services, Kaplan said. To do that the next leader will need "enormous amounts of aid from foreign governments.... However, it's clear that no governments are going to open their own thinned-out wallets unless they're sure the aid won't go to waste. This means Karzai or his successor will have to crack down on corruption and appoint a set of new (and technically competent) ministers and governor."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.