March 17, 2009
Advanced reports on the Barack Obama administration’s strategy to “peel off” a majority of insurgent commanders from the “hard core” of Taliban suggest that it will be presented as a political route to victory in Afghanistan that would not require U.S. and NATO troops to win militarily.
[efoods]But experts warn that the strategy is unlikely to work. And by appearing to provide a political route to victory, the strategy is luring the administration into a renewed commitment to war in Afghanistan and diverting it away from a deal with the Taliban leadership aimed at keeping al Qaeda from having a presence there.
News reports this past week have raised the possibility of negotiations by Afghan, Saudi and Pakistani officials with the Taliban leadership that could result in an agreement not to allow an al Qaeda presence on Afghan territory in return for U.S. and NATO withdrawal and assurances that they will not intervene in the country as long as al Qaeda is kept out.
The strategy of splitting off “reconcilable” insurgents may make commitment to an indefinite continuation of the U.S. military effort more palatable to key U.S. officials, including Obama himself, who know that the war cannot be won through military efforts.
The new administration strategy was reported last week after briefings of Congressional leaders by Gen. David Petraeus, head of CENTCOM, and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Petraeus has been a strong supporter of the strategy of trying to divide the Afghan insurgency by offering money and jobs to those willing to accept the government in Kabul. He has said that his strategy of outreach to what he has described as “reconcilables” among the insurgents in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan as well.
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