Afghan review report: Notable for what it did not say as much for what it did

Kabul, Dec. 17 (ANI): The White House report on Afghan strategy released Thursday was notable as much for what it did not say as for what it did.

It reports some real military gains, but acknowledges that they remain fragile and that NATO troops will need more time to achieve their goals, the New York Times reports.

It said that progress has come only by adding more troops in key areas, and the fierce debate to come will be over whether any troops can be subtracted without undermining that progress.

There are also the starkly different timelines being used in Washington and on the ground.

The report reveals that while President Obama is on a political timetable, needing to assure a restless public and his political base that a withdrawal is on track to begin by the deadline he set of next summer and that he can show measurable success before the next election cycle, Afghanistan, and the American military assessments are based on more intractable realities.

Some of the most stubborn and important scourges they face - ineffectual governance, deep-rooted corruption and the lack of a functioning judicial system - the report barely glanced at.

"We have metrics that show increased progress, but those positives are extremely fragile because we haven't done enough about governance, about corruption. 2010 was supposed to be a year of change, but it has not changed as much as we hoped," the NYT quoted a Western diplomat in Kabul, as saying.

A fundamental conundrum, unmentioned in the report, is that the United States and its NATO allies constantly speak of Karzai and his government as an ally and a partner and try to shore up his image as the leader of his people. Yet many Afghans view his government as a cabal of strongmen, who enrich themselves and their families at the expense of the country.

According to the NYT, by identifying themselves with Karzai, Washington runs the risk of being seen as endorsing the culture of warlords and approving of the enrichment of a privileged few while much of the rest of the country lives in penury. A recent American military focus on blacklisting Afghan contractors who officials believe are paying bribes is an important change that could put the United States on the side of more respected actors rather than those viewed as swindlers, several military experts said.

Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense strategy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that such actions would in the long-term help improve governance.

But he cautioned that in the short term, if the Americans could not rely on the private security companies to keep the peace, they would have to "backfill the security gap themselves," and that could prolong the amount of time they need to root out the Taliban. (ANI)

Please Wait while comments are loading...