Tuesday, June 21, 2011

guessing games

Numerous leaks are nourishing the news media today, but they're mainly muddying the water. The President will announce his Afghanistan troop withdrawal plans tomorrow. Will he announce a 5,000 person withdrawal? Or 10,000? Or some now and all 30,000 that were surged in by the end of 2012?

More important than the numbers, I think, is whether he has a political deal as solid as in December, 2009. And I suspect he does. He needs and probably has Sec. Gates' agreement. Indeed, I suspect that the timing was chosen to be sure Gates agreed before he retired and Gen. Petraeus agreed before he faced Senators regarding his nomination to head the CIA. There were probably be some implicit conditions in whatever is announced to satisfy the military, as there were in 2009.

On the other hand, U.S. policy in the region is still in great peril. Whatever security gains have been achieved, the political situation in Kabul is still a mess. And I find myself in sympathy with David Brooks' comments about failures in our aid programs. I also worry that we are creating a garrison state in Afghanistan that cannot be sustained after western withdrawal.

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