Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The End of the Waiting Game?

This past Sunday, I expressed my feelings on the waiting game so many of us seem to be stuck in thanks to President Obama's decision not to decide on General McChyristal's request for more troops in Afghanistan.

Apparently I'm not the only one who feels stuck.
WAITING for Obama. Waiting for leadership. Waiting for effective aid. Waiting for a sign NATO is in for the long haul. Waiting for a reason not to bet the Taliban will outlast the Westerners and take over when they’ve had enough and leave.

Afghanistan is one big waiting game now and there isn’t much time for game-changing action.

. . .

The favourite candidate was U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Senator John McCain and Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of Lahore’s Daily Times, were among those rightly calling upon President Obama to end the uncertainty about sending a "surge" of 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. Rick Hillier, Canada’s former chief of defence staff, went even further in saying Mr. Obama possesses the position and the ability to articulate a broader vision for rescuing Afghanistan, to touch people beyond the U.S. and to rally Western nations, including Canada, to renew their commitments rather than focus on exit strategies.

The president clearly is the crucial waiting-game changer. But there are others. Canada, the U.K. and the Netherlands have all been bulwarks against Taliban violence, but their long-term commitments, like those of other Western allies, have gone cloudy. A policy brief circulated at the conference makes a devastating case that development aid has been ineffective because donors didn’t build up managerial competence within the Afghan government and failed to co-ordinate aid efforts themselves. The country is still waiting for a "pilot" to steer aid where it’s most needed and most effective.
And yet, thankfully, according to Lex, there might just be signs of hope.

Then again, despite the use of the term "delusional" "decisional" to describe this latest meeting, for me, at least, it still retains the some of the same feel as before ... deciding not to decide.
The administration's plan contains "off-ramps," points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or "begin looking very quickly at exiting" the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.

. . .

The plan adopted by Obama would fall well short of the 80,000 troops McChrystal suggested in August as a "low-risk option" that would offer the best chance to contain the Taliban-led insurgency and stabilize Afghanistan.

It splits the difference between two other McChrystal options: a "high-risk" approach that called for 20,000 additional troops and a "medium-risk" option that would add 40,000 to 45,000 troops.

There are 68,000 U.S. troops and 42,000 from other countries in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army's recently revised counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops.
Let's just hope it's not too little. Too late.
"This war is going to be decided," he told the conference, "over the decisions of athers of Pashto young men who are being asked by Taliban commanders to give them their sons to go out and fight against the Afghan government." These fathers, he says, need reasons to resist the Taliban line that "we’re going to chase the Americans out" and they "need to feel good about being on the right side."

"Anything we can do to change the tenor of that discussion will help, so that fathers of those Pashto young men say, ‘That’s what you said last year when you took my other son and he’s dead and the Americans still haven’t run away.’"

We should not keep them waiting for reasons to say no.

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