Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
A Fresh Approach in Afghanistan:
An End to War?
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, September 14, 2009
Left out of the options under consideration in "Obama's war"
is the only one with any chance of success.
Despite assurances to
the contrary in Washington and a major policy speech in London, one need
not quibble with the obvious fact that the situation is deteriorating
beyond repair in Afghanistan. Although international media is more
concerned with what that means politically for United States President
Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, little attention is
given to the browbeaten and war-weary people of that country.
should know that public support for the war has greatly diminished, when
conservative commentators like The Washington Post columnist George Will
write: "US forces should be substantially reduced to serve a
comprehensively revised policy. America should do only what can be done
from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes
and small, potent Special Forces units."
Okay, so his narrative
is still ultimately violent, but the fact remains that the war mood is
changing. After all, Will's 1 September article was entitled, "Time to Get
Out of Afghanistan."
Dan Senor and Peter Wehner responded with a
peculiar diatribe in the New York Times, accusing Will of allowing his
party allegiance to influence his views on the war. The two authors,
senior fellows at major US think tanks, offered a bloody rationale wrapped
in deceptive wording. They argued that historically Democrats opposed
Republican wars and Republicans have done the same, and that must change.
It was implied that pretty much every major war in recent decades was a
war that served US national security interests; therefore, "Republicans
should resist the reflex that all opposition parties have, which is to
oppose the stands of a president of the other party because he is a member
of the other party." In other words, yes to war, whether by Democrats or
The intellectual wrangling, of course, is not
happening in a vacuum; it almost never does. Indeed, there is much
politicking going on; intense deliberation in Washington, political
debates in London; defensive French statements, and more. It seems that
the war in Afghanistan is reaching a decisive point, militarily in
Afghanistan itself, and politically in major Western capitals.
But why the sudden hoopla over Afghanistan? For after all, the bloody war
has been grinding on for eight long years.
The Taliban and
various groups opposing the Kabul government and their Western benefactors
are gaining ground, not just in the southern and eastern parts of
Afghanistan. Daring Taliban attacks are now taking place in the north as
well, long seen as peaceful, thus requiring little attention. On 26 August
a roadside bomb hit the car of the chief of the provincial Justice
Department in the northern Kunduz province, killing him, and sending shock
waves through Kabul. The bloody message was meant to echo as a political
one: no one is safe, nowhere is safe. Another attack was reported in the
province of Laghman, in the east, where 22 people, mostly civilians were
killed. Among the dead were four Afghan officials including the deputy
chief of the National Directorate of Security, Abdullah Laghmani. The
irony is too obvious to state.
In Washington, London and Paris
politicians wish us to believe that they are not unnerved by all of this.
They exaggerated the significance of the recent Afghani elections,
attempting to once again underscore that the "crucial" elections placed
Afghanistan on a crossroads. Crossroads? What does that even mean, in any
practical terms? George Will, although selective in his logic, was honest
enough to mention that President Hamid Karzai's "vice-presidential running
mate is a drug trafficker." Even US officials admit that the government
they've created following the war is corrupt, to say the least.
Richard Holbrooke, among other foreign envoys "responsible for
Afghanistan", told reporters in Paris on 2 September that US officials
have no preference among the candidates, nor are they particularly
interested in runoff elections, but they wished to see a government that
appoints "more efficient, less corrupt ministers". It behooves those
"responsible for Afghanistan" to remember that inefficiency and corruption
were the outcome of the very policies they have so eagerly adopted in the
country. No sympathy for Karzai here, but it's unfair to point the finger
at a feeble leader whenever a Western strategy fumbles, as it has
Speaking of strategies, what is the plan ahead? French
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner promised that foreign troops will stay
put in Afghanistan unless the country's security was ensured, reported
Xinhua. In practical terms, this means never, for how could security ever
visit that region as long as the strategy is hostage to two equally
destructive narratives -- the Senor/Wehner troop surges vs Will's
Hubris aside, Washington and London are
facing some difficult political and military decisions ahead. Top
officials in both capitals are using grim and somber language. US Defense
Secretary Robert Gates, responding to a call by the top US general in
Afghanistan for a fresh approach to the conflict, is considering yet
another troop increase as part of Obama's new Afghan strategy.
The sense of urgency was invited by the detailed report of the newly
appointed General Stanley McChrystal, who maintains that "success" was
still possible, but a change of strategy is needed. The report resulted in
intense deliberation in Washington, highlighted by grim press conferences
involving the Pentagon's heavyweights, including Admiral Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over what to do about "Obama's
Speaking at the Pentagon, Gates equivocated: "I don't
believe that the war is slipping through the administration's fingers. I
absolutely do not think it is time to get out of Afghanistan (but there
remains) limited time for us to show that this approach is working."
The details of the new Obama strategy are still not very clear, but the
commitment to the war is still unquestionable, as expressed in a "major" 4
September speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "When the security of our
country is at stake we cannot walk away," said Brown, according to the
As Brown was solemnly speaking about British security, NATO
air strikes on a pair of fuel tankers killed up to 90 people, according to
Indeed, the situation in Afghanistan requires
a fresh approach, although not the one George Will had in mind.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author of several books and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His
work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies
around the world. His latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A
Chronicle of a People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his
forthcoming book is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold
Story” (Pluto Press, London), which is now available for pre-orders at