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Is the US Strategically Bankrupt in Afghanistan?

On her recent trip to Pakistan, Secretary Clinton announced a change in Washington’s recent hard stance against Islamabad. She called the revamped approach “Fight, Talk, Build” and said “We want to fight, talk and build all at the same time.”

It’s not clear what the strategy is here. Not long ago we were threatening Pakistan and accusing the government of supporting our enemies in Afghanistan. But now are we abruptly changing direction, even asking Pakistan to lead negotiations? Are we trying to bomb the Haqqanis to the negotiating table, like in Serbia in the 1990s? Are we in the midst of a last offensive before surge troops come home? As the NYT reports, even officials in Washington are confused:

…inside the Obama administration, the new initiative has been met with deep skepticism, in part because the Pakistani government has developed its own strategy, one at odds with Mrs. Clinton’s on several key points. One senior American official summarized the Pakistani position as “Cease-fire, Talk, Wait for the Americans to Leave.”

Perhaps Secretary Clinton knows something we don’t. It certainly seems like a scattered strategy, and that is a bad thing when we’re talking about a war.

There are some in Washington who think there is no hope of defeating or negotiating with the Haqqanis. As a recent article in the NYT says,

Responsible for hundreds of American deaths, the Haqqanis probably will outlast the United States troops in Afghanistan and command large swaths of territory there once the shooting stops.

The administration’s endgame in Afghanistan appears to suffer from a strategic confusion which has only gotten worse.  Is Pakistan part of the problem or part of the solution?  And if Pakistan won’t provide the minimum necessary cooperation for American strategy to work, what then?

In politics and diplomacy ‘constructive ambiguity’ can often make sense.  In war it is more often a trap.  The United States appears to have an Afghan strategy that depends on Pakistani help that we aren’t going to get.  Trying to pretend our way around that won’t help.  Successful war strategy must start from facts, however unpleasant, honestly faced.

Via Meadia doesn’t expect an American administration to announce its war strategies on the internet, and so we are hoping that there is more here than meets the eye.  What meets the eye is a muddled mess.

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  • Corlyss

    “It certainly seems like a scattered strategy,”

    You’re going to break your brain looking for coherence in the incoherent.

  • SteveMG

    I’ve seen reports that President Obama was absolutely furious at the recently retired Adm. Mullen’s testimony where he openly stated that the ISI was working with the Haqqani network. Well, more than working; the group was a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

    The question is why the anger? That it complicated US-Pakistani relations? or that it complicated this attempt to hand things off to Islamabad?

    Just how much is electoral politics driving things with this Administration?

    And for those keeping track of things: Army General Martin Dempsey is the current (new) chairman of the JCS.

  • Luke Lea

    “Is the US Strategically Bankrupt in Afghanistan?”

    For those who’ve been paying any attention at all, you don’t even need to read Meade’s article to answer that question. 😉

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