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The Afghanistan Speech

POSTED:

The Obama strategy: When the Afghan troops stand up, American troops will stand down. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I was struck by two false conceits in the president's speech: One: That Al Qaeda and the Taliban remain interchangeable. Al Qaeda has hardly any operatives left in Afghanistan — as few as 100 according to recent intelligence. Yes, the Taliban harbored Osama bin Laden until the U.S. invasion — but that was now nearly a decade ago. Obama tried to continue to yoke the two by declaring that "the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government." That's pretty weak tea, Mr. President. The truth is that we are no longer taking the fight to the enemy that attacked us on 9/11 when we try to reclaim the anarchic provinces of Afghanistan from the Taliban. Two: That Pakistan is a truly our "partner." In point of fact, Pakistan —l and in particular its security service the ISI — is a longstanding patron of Taliban violence in Afghanistan as a hedge against Indian influence in its northwestern neighbor. Indeed, you even might go so far as to say that the ISI maintains common cause with Al Qaeda in seeking to hobble a Karzai regime it sees as too close to India. The bitter reality is that bringing peace to Afghanistan may ultimately depend on rapprochement between India and Pakistan — but the prospect of peace breaking out between those two powers is in the next 18 months is about as likely as Israel and the Palestinians deciding to hug it out. I was deeply discouraged that the word "India" did not pass the president's lips tonight. I don't pretend that any of this is easy. And simply abandoning the Kabul government to its own corrupt, opium-enriched, dysfunctional devices doesn't make much sense, either policy or politics wise. But this doesn't feel like much other than a Hail Mary, a low-percentage play whose likely failure the president can pin on Gen. McChrystal. I can only pray that my gut feeling is as wrong about this surge as it was about the Gen. Petraeus surge in Iraq. What did you make of the president's speech?

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