Monday, February 6, 2012

Infighting over Afghan policy

I've long believed that the best way to understand how U.S. foreign policy is made is to look at the bureaucratic process that is followed. In fact,,policymakers often bring different organizational perspectives and concerns to policy discussions. They do not always agree on what the problem is, what U.S. priorities should be, or what should be done.

As internal debates proceed, the side which thinks it is losing often resorts to leaks to the press to gain political allies.

Today's Washington Post has an excellent example of these phenomena.

The thrust of Karen De Young's story is that the administration is trying to revise its Afghanistan policy, but some aspects are becoming public before they can orchestrate a rollout. As a result, there is some confusion among officials. You may have noticed Sec. Panetta's comments last week about an early end to a US combat role, and his subsequent backpedaling at NATO.

Look at some of DeYoung's statements: A "senior official" says that in Washington and other capitals: “They use leaking as a tool.”

She also notes dissent inside the Obama administration: "Some senior officials privately echoed Republican critics, who argue that an earlier end to the combat mission — or even public discussion of one — would weaken the administration’s hand as State Department and National Security Council officials prepare for another meeting with Taliban representatives this month in Qatar, and as the military girds for this summer’s fighting season."

I suspect that this leak will lead to competitive leaking by others, so keep watch in other papers.

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