Will Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam? (Newsweek)

In hoeverre lijkt de situatie in Afghanistan op die destijds in Vietnam, en wat moet worden gedaan om te voorkomen dat de uitkomst van de oorlog in Afghanistan dezelfde wordt als in Vietnam? Newsweek geeft uitstekende antwoorden op deze cruciale vragen – die ook van belang zijn voor de Nederlandse ISAF-missie

The analogy isn’t exact. But the war in Afghanistan is starting to look disturbingly familiar.

..Vietnam analogies can be tiresome. To critics, especially those on the left, all American interventions after Vietnam have been potential "quagmires." But sometimes clichés come true, and, especially lately, it seems that the war in Afghanistan is shaping up in all-too-familiar ways. The parallels are disturbing: the president, eager to show his toughness, vows to do what it takes to "win." The nation that we are supposedly rescuing is no nation at all but rather a deeply divided, semi-failed state with an incompetent, corrupt government held to be illegitimate by a large portion of its population. The enemy is well accustomed to resisting foreign invaders and can escape into convenient refuges across the border. There are constraints on America striking those sanctuaries. Meanwhile, neighboring countries may see a chance to bog America down in a costly war. Last, there is no easy way out.

True, there are important differences between Afghanistan and Vietnam. The Taliban is not as powerful or unified a foe as the Viet Cong. On the other hand, Vietnam did not pose a direct national-security threat; even believers in the "domino theory" did not expect to see the Viet Cong fighting in San Francisco. By contrast, while not Taliban themselves, terrorists who trained in Afghanistan did attack New York and Washington in 2001. Afghanistan has always been seen as the right and necessary war to fight—unlike, for many, Iraq. Conceivably, Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the successful surge in Iraq and now, as the head of Central Command in charge of the fight in Afghanistan, could pull off another miraculous transformation…

A wave of reports, official and unofficial, from American and foreign (including Afghan) diplomats and soldiers, present and former, all seem to agree: the situation in Afghanistan is bad and getting worse…

..what is troubling is that no one in the outgoing or incoming administration has been able to say what the additional troops are for, except as a kind of tourniquet to staunch the bleeding while someone comes up with a strategy that has a chance of working. The most uncomfortable question is whether any strategy will work at this point.

It’s still too early to say exactly what President Obama will do in Afghanistan. But there are some signs—difficult to read with certainty, yet nonetheless suggestive—that reality is sinking in, at least in some important corners of the new administration…

Americans are appropriately skeptical about the chances of success in Afghanistan. A recent NEWSWEEK Poll shows that while 71 percent of the people believe that Obama can turn around the cratering economy, only 48 percent think he can make progress in Afghanistan. ..

So why not just get out? As always, it’s not so simple. ..

Some problems do not have a solution, or any good solution. Two studies of the Afghanistan mess cochaired by retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, now President Obama’s national-security adviser, asserted last year that America cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan. Who wants to be the American president who allows jihadists to claim that they defeated and drove out American forces? Daniel Ellsberg, the government contractor who leaked the Pentagon papers, used to say about Vietnam, "It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam." The same is all too true for Afghanistan.

Afghanistan – Obama’s Vietnam? (Coverstory John Barry and Evan Thomas in Newsweek)

We’re better at creating enemies in Afghanistan than friends. Here’s how to fix that—and the war, too.

In May 2006 a unit of American soldiers in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan valley were engulfed in a ferocious fire fight with the Taliban. Only after six hours, and supporting airstrikes, could they extricate themselves from the valley. But what was most revealing about the battle was the fact that many local farmers spontaneously joined in, rushing home to get their weapons. Asked later why they’d done so, the villagers claimed they didn’t support the Taliban’s ideological agenda, nor were they particularly hostile toward the Americans. But this battle was the most momentous thing that had happened in their valley for years. If as virile young men they had stood by and just watched, they would have been dishonored in their communities. And, of course, if they were going to fight, they could not fight alongside the foreigners…

Let’s be clear. The war in Afghanistan is not going well; almost all trends are moving in the wrong direction. But I don’t believe it is a quagmire—yet. We still have time to focus our goals, improve our strategy, calibrate our means. The two men in charge now, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, are extraordinarily talented. But what should they do? We need to overhaul U.S. policy in four steps, each more complicated than the last…

Afghanistan is a complex problem, and progress will be slow and limited. But we need to stabilize the situation, not magically transform one of the poorest, most war-torn countries in the world in the next few years. It will help immeasurably if we keep in mind the basic objective of U.S. policy there. "My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the United States and its allies," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week. That is an admirably clear statement.

It is not that we don’t have other goals—education, female literacy, centralized control of government services, drug eradication, liberal democracy. But many of them are objectives that will be realized over very long stretches of time, and should not be measured as part of military campaigns or political cycles. They are also goals that are not best achieved by military force. The U.S. Army is being asked to do enough as it is in Afghanistan. Helping it stay focused on a core mission is neither cramped nor defeatist. It is a realistic plan for success.

A Turnaround Strategy (Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek)

Is afzijdigheid van Nederland in Pakistan, Afghanistan en Irak, werkelijk ‘naief’? (eigen blog van 09-05-2007)

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2 thoughts on “Will Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam? (Newsweek)

  1. Zo lang ze een onderscheid weten te maken tussen terrorismebestrijding en politieke steun aan een regime, zal het we mee kunnen vallen.

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