Monday, February 6, 2012

Afghanistan 2013: America Shifts Course

Matthew Hoh, who in 2009 famously quit his State Department post in Afghanistan to protest U.S. strategy there, spoke on August 11, 2011 as part of the Dallas Peace Center’s dinner lecture series. Hoh didn’t mince words about how he thinks the war in Afghanistan is going --“Afghanistan is a disaster.”

Hoh is a former Marine Corps captain who served six years in Iraq and worked as a civilian for the Department of Defense in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and the Director of the Afghanistan Study Group. “I agree with (U.S.) objectives. The problem is our policy will not achieve those objectives,” Hoh told the Dallas Peace Center audience.

Chris Matthews speaks with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons and Matthew Hoh of the Center for International Policy on
Last Friday, Matthew Hoh and The Atlantic's Steve Clemons had a discussion with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball about Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's comments that the US would cease combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013 -- rather than the end of 2014.

Key points made during the discussion:

First, this is a key shift in strategy -- and a positive one.

Second, this remains consistent with the President's announced strategy, also articulated well by Vice President Joe Biden, that the military's job today is not to "beat" the Taliban but rather to shape the choices in the field for the political stakeholders and to be able to preempt any effort to overthrow the government in Kabul.

Third, there is a bit of an 'invisible hand' at work in the message in sending confidence building signals during a fragile early process of trying to negotiate with the Taliban. There are secret negotiations that various sides are attempting to hatch -- and Panetta's comments may be designed to shore up the process. The trip by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Kabul yesterday and his comments blessing the peace talks seem likely to also be part of this mutual posturing, confidence building process.

Lastly, for those like GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who think that the US should commit itself, its military manpower, and more deficit spending to a longer stay in Afghanistan, the discussion concluded that continuing military activities in Afghanistan another five or ten years would strategically deflated the United States, fueling the ambitions and agendas of nations like Iran in the region, and China globally.

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