Sunday, June 13, 2010

Karzai Doubts US Will Defeat Taliban

From the New York Times:
"'Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,' said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.'"
. . .
"If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war."
At least President Obama has been consistent. He has followed war policies in Afghanistan that he urged on President Bush for Iraq: setting a U.S. military withdrawal timeline and criticizing national leadership for not making significant societal and political progress.

But those policies aren't working out so well in Afghanistan. It's not a good sign when the president of Afghanistan doubts the success of the war effort.

Successful war time leadership requires inspiring trust and confidence even when you're overmatched--as Winston Churchill did. Unfortunately, President Obama's policies have inspired doubt.

It looks more and more certain that President Bush's politically unpopular policies of not setting a withdrawal timetable and not criticizing the national government were crucial to winning the war in Iraq. It wasn't just the surge itself. It was the whole strategy of building up a competent, cohesive government among leaders not used to working together. Bush's commitment (at a high political price) and confidence helped Iraqi leadership rise to the occasion.

Obama's lack of understanding about how to inspire confidence and commitment has wounded his Afghan war surge strategy--perhaps mortally.

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