What next?


A surprising–and unusual–intervention by the US ambassador to Afghanistan was leaked today, with him apparently warning against sending more US troops to the country over fears of corruption in the Afghan government. The revelation has come as US President Barack Obama is still, it seems, settling on the next step in his Afghan strategy.

He’s come in for some criticism for dithering/inconsistency on the issue, criticism that analyst Juan Cole told me he felt was unfair when I spoke with him last week. He’s right–the issue is too important to rush, and was anyway difficult to make before the results of the Afghan presidential election were known. And he’s in good company, with former US Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly having advised Obama not to rush his decision.

Obama’s next move is complicated by US public opinion, which as Marc Ambinder points out is, at times a little inconsistent. He notes:

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‘What’s remained constant throughout this, though, is that Americans want Obama to follow the advice of his generals (CNN finds that to be the case by a 52-48 margin; NBC/WSJ found the same, with 62 percent expressing more confidence in the generals and 25 percent expressing more confidence in the president.)

‘Which is a bit paradoxical, since Obama’s generals are telling him to send more troops…which the American people evidently don’t support.’

But whatever Obama decides, long-term success will also depend on the Afghan people, and according to Abdulhadi Hairan, who is based in Kabul and is working on a piece for The Diplomat, there’s real resistance to the idea of more US troops.

He told me that his view, based on his knowledge on the ground there, is that ‘sending additional troops will not be a wise decision. The US can’t win this war even it sends more 300,000 troops to Afghanistan.’

Instead, he suggested four things for the US to focus on if it wants the mission to be a success:

 1) Focus all resources on training the Afghan security forces;

2) Put money into the reconstruction efforts in rural areas;

3) Establish a stricter system that ends corruption in the government institutions, particularly the judiciary, the police and the public offices;

4) Put significant pressure on the government of Pakistan to stop supporting the Afghan Taliban.

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