17 December 2007

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

(Also posted at VetVoice.com)

This is an interesting piece in the WP for Monday morning.

It seems remotely possible that administration leaders - under pressure from the military and other political forces - are awakening to the fact that the US has neglected the justified, neccessary war in Afghanistan while pursuing folly in Iraq.

I'm not sure where US forces will come from, as the surge winds down and units return to base to rest/refit/retrain. I foresee some serious shuffling of the latest Pentagon deployment schedules in the near future.

What struck me, though, was the description of the usual foot-dragging in cases like these:

Administration officials said the White House could start to debate the future of the American military commitment in both Iraq and Afghanistan as early as next month.

Time to quit pussyfooting around and get to it! The surge has been on for nearly a year, while Afghanistan's been going to heck in a handbag. The time to debate was before the Iraq surge.

I was also struck by this:

Bush's decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan could heavily influence his ability to pass on to his successor stable situations in both countries, an objective his advisers describe as one of the president's paramount goals for his final year in office. They say Bush will listen closely to his military commanders on the ground before making any decisions on troops but is unlikely to do anything he believes could jeopardize recent, hard-won security improvements in Iraq.
Administration officials say the White House has become more concerned in recent months about the situation in Afghanistan, where grinding poverty, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure and the growing challenge from the Taliban are hindering U.S. stabilization efforts. Senior administration officials now believe Afghanistan may pose a greater longer-term challenge than Iraq.

Given Mr. Bush's track record in listening to his military commanders, I've gotta see it - and results - to believe it. And this bit about Afghanistan posing a greater challenge than Iraq? Yeah, I seem to recall something about guys with airplanes a few years ago who trained in Afghanistan. Most of them were Saudis, but I won't delve into that right now.

And I've seen little evidence that he wants to pass a more stable situation on to a successor - especially if he/she is a Democrat.

Richard Holbrooke, at the bottom of this story, summed up the mindset of this administration very well, in that it just can't deal with reality-based criticism:

A new White House emphasis on Afghanistan would probably expose Bush to even more criticism from Democrats, who have long accused him of taking his eye off the hunt for Osama bin Laden with the invasion of Iraq.
"It's about time they recognized the problem" in Afghanistan, said former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a Democrat, who says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley called him last spring to say that a newspaper column he wrote raising concerns about conditions in Afghanistan was too pessimistic.

While I'm glad the administration is starting to refocus on its priorities (and actually concentrating on Afghanistan again), it will never, ever admit that it's in a real pickle right now, and has yet to take any real action to mobilize the nation to help get the job done.