“President Obama this morning announced a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy that will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding and thousands more military and civilian personnel to reverse what he called an “increasingly perilous” situation….
Among the resources required, he said, are an additional 4,000 troops, beyond the 17,000 he authorized last month, that will bring total U.S. deployments to more than 60,000. U.S. military expenses for Afghan operations this year, White House aides said, will increase about 60 percent from the current toll of $2 billion a month. The newly announced forces, from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, will serve as trainers and advisers to an Afghan army expected to double to 134,000 by 2011….
“In going forward,” he said, “we will not blindly stay the course,” but will monitor progress with a series of benchmarks and metrics imposed on Pakistan, Afghanistan and U.S. efforts. “And after years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders,” Obama said.
In an indication that U.S. covert and overt operations against insurgent hideouts in Pakistan will continue — including missile attacks launched by Predator drones, Obama said that “we will insist that action be taken — one way or another — when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.”
…. Lawmakers and the administration itself have questioned the ability and will of the Afghan government to fight corruption and the narcotics trade and have criticized the Pakistani military’s performance against al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups. U.S. intelligence officials believe that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service continue to actively collaborate with the Taliban.”
I’m on deadline for a Monday column and can’t give this the time it deserves right now. But I’ll make one quick point: Obama’s correct to stress the responsibility of other parties to step up. We Americans can’t fix Afghanistan by ourselves, no matter how much money, time and manpower we put into it. If others don’t do their part, Afghanistan will fail no matter how smart or committed we are.
Sometimes that’s a hard thing for Americans to accept. We have this crazy idea that everything that happens anywhere around the world is a result of something we did or didn’t do. It’s not. Despite our immense relative power, events in other parts of the world have an historic and cultural momentum that we are sometimes helpless to alter.
When Mao and the Communists took over China in 1949, it set off howls here in America of “who lost China?,” as if we somehow had more power over China’s fate than the Chinese themselves. Likewise, there was little we could do to stop North Korea and Pakistan from going nuclear and we may not be able to stop Iran either.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try every reasonable means at our disposal. But the idea that events in the rest of the world can be molded to our liking by sufficient application of U.S. willpower and muscle just ain’t true, and our refusal to accept that reality has sometimes caused us problems.