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Dec. 2 2009 - 7:18 am | 27 views | 4 recommendations | 10 comments

Obama Rearranges Deck Chairs On The Titanic

As everybody in the world who owns a TV set knows, President Obama went public with his strategy for Afghanistan last night.

For Afghanistan watchers (and the readers of this blog) there were very few surprises in that speech. We’ve known for at least a week that there would be a significant up-tick in coalition forces here, but really, this plan has probably been in the works for over a year. Last summer, I wrote this essay, outlining how the US would eventually make it’s way out of Afghanistan.

In it, I said that there would be a surge in the short-term, with a heavy emphasis on training Afghan security forces, followed by a withdrawal before the next US presidential election. I’d like to thank the President for vindicating my line of  thinking.

But after listening  to the President’s  speech, I’m still not sure what he thinks Afghanistan will look like by the time US forces withdraw in 2011.

Most of those security forces he wants to increase and train are illiterate and undisciplined. Afghan military and police  leadership is corrupt, some of them having bought their ranks in order to get in on lucrative bribes from narco-traffickers.

The US and Nato have had eight years to train these men, what could possibly be done in 18 months to seriously professionalize them?  Magic?

When the US withdraws from Afghanistan it will leave behind 400,000  well armed men with no education, lousy paychecks (that they sometimes don’t receive), suspect leadership and very few options. This is not a recipe for stability.

On the government front, Karzai may offer up some heads-on-platters to show that he is serious about cracking down on corruption, but in reality, I can guarantee that it will be business as usual for the rest of Karzai’s second term. Those who have been sacked will simply be replaced by other unscrupulous fat-cats.

Everybody is all aflutter about Obama’s speech. Liberals say he hit a home run and conservatives are saying that he took too long to make this decision. They are all mostly know-nothings trying to re-arrange deck chairs on the Titanic. Maybe it will be more secure here in the short term. How could it not be? Insurgents don’t like to stand and fight. But as soon as Nato leaves, this place will fall apart.

That is not a guess. That is not a prognostication. That is a fact and anybody who tells you different has got something to sell.


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  1. collapse expand

    It sounds like you’re saying the U.S is in a lose lose situation in Afghanistan. If there is no surge we continue to lose troops, with the surge we are only gaining short term success. It’s either we leave all together or stay indefinitely. I say leave come home and strengthen the military on American soil. What are your suggestions to stabilize that region?

  2. collapse expand

    To obama and the democrats….and appearance of victory, backed up by rabid media hype…..is the same thing as victory…..and good luck at the 2012 democratic convention which by the way is planned to be on the decks of the actual Titanic….which Obama will raise in 2012 from its 100 year old watery tomb…

  3. collapse expand

    Nice piece, Tobia.
    Did you catch how the President invoked the immediate aftermath of the WTC attacks to call for blind unity and justify his less-than-fully-considered policy? The speech was like vindication for Glenn Beck. The Afghanistan surge is Obama’s 9/12 project.
    And can I just say, I’m so, so glad that John McCain is pleased.

  4. collapse expand

    Mr. Tobia,

    It is almost word for word Richard Nixon’s plan for Vietnam in 1969, “Vietnamization”. Build a big local army (albeit hollow), make a big offensive push against their sanctuaries and infrastructure (the Invasion of Cambodia), arrange for a brief period of calm, withdraw the troops, and then the place blows up. Mr. Nixon did make an effort to have Thieu government become a little less corrupt and unpopular. Hopefully you won’t have to get out of Kabul on a helicopter leaving from the roof of the US embassy.

  5. collapse expand

    Keys,

    This is a lose-lose situation pretty much any way you look at it. If you really want to “fix” this place the US and Nato would have to be here for the next 20 years or more.

    As for ways to stabilize the region, um…beer?

    Andy: That would be the awesomest convention ever.

    Corey,

    The 9.11 mention was particularly grotesque b/c he invoked it in defense of his argument that this wasn’t Vietnam. As for his plan being “less than fully considered,” I think you’ve been seeing black helicopter again. This has been in the works for ages.

    But speaking of Vietnam David,I know you were probably being tongue in cheek, but in all honesty I’ve never been able to envision insurgents overrunning Kabul. Maybe if the Afghan army and police switched sides. As it is, Afghan security forces are really well dug in. They have solid, high-ground defensive positions around the city. Anything’s possible though, be a helluva fight…

  6. collapse expand

    P.J., what’s your assessment of the Taliban’s chances for taking power in Kabul and northern Afghanistan? There’s a lot of fear about a Taliban victory, but is there still a Northern Alliance that could, with American support, stalemate the Taliban?

  7. collapse expand

    This sounds crazy, but have you ever had the feeling or impression they (gov.) are after something supernatural over there? As a Navy vet I know that alot of what civilians see is just cover, or what they want us to know. I really think something else is going on with Iraq – Afghanistan. The drain on us, it makes no sense, its something bigger, and now that Obama’s in he knows whats up and wants it too.

  8. collapse expand

    well we hope that this will work out for the average afghan civilian. but the taliban have stated they will ramp up there attacks.After we pull out, i see the ANA an ANP cut an run.one because karzai wont pay them,an two they will see the taliban as the winner.and most don’t trust the government.

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    About Me

    I’m a writer and reporter living in Kabul, Afghanistan. For the past four years I’ve been an investigative reporter at various Village Voice Media weeklies, and before that I worked on documentary films in New York City.

    I am currently a journalism mentor and news editor for The Killid Group, a not-for-profit radio and print organization based in Kabul, with five radio stations and many bureaus throughout Afghanistan.

    My writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice, Modern Drunkard and other fine publications.

    Originally from Philadelphia, I’ve also worked in south Florida and Nashville, Tennessee.

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    Contributor Since: June 2009
    Location:Kabul, Afghanistan