Obama Seeking New Afghan Partners
According to Wednesday's New York Times, the Obama national security team has settled on a down-the-middle approach for Afghanistan. The paper says the final policy will be a mix between General McChrystal's "all in" recommendation of 40,000-60,000 more troops to protect the country's population while waiting for Karzai legitimacy, and Joe Biden's smaller footprint approach of containing the Taliban and Al Qaeda through Special Ops and technology.
According to the Times, the policy going forward will be a mixture of both approaches, with McChrystal getting a significant increase in troops to clear and hold the large population centers and economic infrastructure in the country, including the Helmand province and Kandahar, where the Taliban has its drug trade nerve center. But in a nod to Biden's approach of avoiding a full-scale commitment of combat troops to protect the people against the Taliban everywhere in the country, NATO will cede the remote parts of the country to local dictates and let the Taliban have their strongholds. The US will continue to identify and deal with threats through drones, technology, and Special Operations. The overall approach would continue until the Afghan army and police can be trained and put in place to take over, at which time it is presumed our overall presence can be reduced while the covert war against Al Qaeda and hostile elements of the Taliban will continue.
Basically, we'll be trying to do something I've thought about for a while now: walling off the economically viable parts of the country from the border areas, and letting the Taliban have their zones of fanaticism in the areas between the countries. But what we're really doing is making the country safe for Big Oil, while trying to contain the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the remote areas.
It sounds like a good compromise, complicated by the fact that current and former American security and military officials are going public with allegations that Karzai's brother is on the CIA payroll. The timing of this revelation is interesting, as this is not news. It has been suspected for a while now that Karzai's brother is a drug kingpin, even though he lived for ten years in this country. President Karzai confronted the Brits and Americans back in 2006 over these allegations, asking them for proof, and was told it was a political problem he had to fix and a barrier to his legitimacy. He didn't, as being a drug kingpin in Afghanistan is not a disqualifier; the CIA routinely works with corrupt war lords and drug kingpins in the anti-terrorism fight.
Karzai's brother and former officials openly admit that he works with the Americans, even while he has been suspected of also working with and profiting from the Taliban's drug trade. But with the administration about to commit American forces to secure the population centers, including the Helmand province and the home of the Taliban's money source, it was time apparently for unnamed current and former officials to call out Karzai's brother as a CIA operative and drug lord?