James Forsyth

Obama’s three Afghan mistakes

Obama's three Afghan mistakes
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The Obama administration did not inherit a good situation in Afghanistan. But decisions it has taken have made the situation there worse. First, during the transition it flirted with the idea of withdrawing US support from Hamid Karzai but did not follow through. The result of this was that Karzai—worried about losing American support—came to rely ever more heavily on the support of the worst elements in his circle making him an even worse partner than before.

Second it downplayed the importance of democracy promotion. Some might claim that this was sensible pragmatism. But the blow dealt to the Afghan mission, both on the ground and over here, by the blatant rigging of the election demonstrates that a legitimate government is hugely important to both counter-insurgency on the ground and sustaining support for the war in this and other countries that are sending troops over there.

Finally, Obama has left his allies hanging. No one knows which way he is going to jump, will he send 50 odd thousand more troops as General McChrystal wants or will he follow the advice of his vice president and chief of staff and try to operate with a lighter footprint. This is part of the reason why Brown’s speech yesterday was so confused, what he said had to be compatible with both options: something that is not intellectually possible.


Update: Both Charles Moore and Tim Montgomerie have both written important pieces on Afghanistan and Obama respectively.   

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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