The peaceful provincial elections In Iraq, where the extremist religious parties appear to have fared poorly, was further evidence that Iraq is on the rough path to the stability and democracy. As Salam Pax writes in The New York Times today, “If we manage to repeat this success in the national elections at the end of this year, I think we can confidently say that we’ve got the hang of this democracy thing.” The idea of Iraq acting as a model for the rest of the Middle East could soon be back in fashion. However in Afghanistan, violence hit its highest levels since the US intervention in 2001 in the spring and summer of 2008 according to the Pentagon. The Coalition is also increasingly frustrated with the Karzai government which seems increasingly inept.
In these circumstances, it would be strategic folly to endanger the progress in Iraq by drawing down troops too quickly. The Afghan mission does need bolstering but it would be stupid to do this at the expense of Iraq or before we have worked out what we are trying to do in Afghanistan. Far more sensible, would be to consolidate the gains in Iraq and not consider major draw downs until after Iraq’s national elections.