Michael's Dispatches

Straight Talk

09 March 2009

President Obama talks straight on Afghanistan.  We are not winning.  This bit of truth has been reported clearly on this website since early 2006.  In fact, not only are we not winning, we are losing.  Pakistan is a far bigger and more important problem than Afghanistan.  On the global scale, Afghanistan is tantamount irrelevant so long as we can deny sanctuary to people who will use that land as a base to attack us.

General Petraeus and others believe that reaching out to moderate elements is important.  Part of the strategy not described in the transcript below is to negotiate from a position of strength, which means much aggressive fighting ahead this year.  At the moment, the Taliban and associated groups realize that their negotiating positions – those who might care to negotiate – are improving month by month.  We must kill a lot of these guys to help the more moderate enemies realize there is incentive to negotiate.  This course carries great risk of alienating more Afghans, especially as more U.S. troops clog the roads and inevitable mistakes occur.  We need more people, but more people on the ground are almost guaranteed to also alienate more Afghans.  Our shelf life in Afghanistan is limited by numerous factors.  We must make a significant turnaround, in my estimate, by no later than late 2010.  There are tough times ahead, and no guarantees.

President Obama also mentions renditions and torture.  (I am working on a couple of dispatches on torture.)  Some enemies should never be released.  We should keep them until they die, but care should be taken to make sure we have the right people.  In past years, we have sometimes released the wrong people.  After release they have returned to the battlefields and killed people.

Please read this transcript.

Reassurance on the Economy, and Addressing Afghanistan

And please make sure that President Obama realizes that we are paying attention.  If his administration releases prisoners who attack or kill U.S. citizens, the responsibility will be on his shoulders.

If you have not read my dispatch “Gates of Fire” about a released prisoner shooting a U.S. soldier, please do.

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