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Monday, February 26, 2007

That Other War

by digby

Does everyone know about the big Taliban offensive slated for the spring? Did you know that we needed to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan in anticipation of it?

Here's an excerpt from The Situation Room today:

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) HENRY (voice-over): In a surprise visit to Pakistan, Vice President Cheney put private pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on al Qaeda and Taliban militants. But in public, White House Spokesman Tony Snow struck a much more cautious tone.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not been saying it's a tough message. What we're saying is we're having -- the vice president is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of -- of making even greater progress against al Qaeda, against the Taliban.

HENRY: What's really going on here is a delicate diplomatic dance. While Musharraf has helped the U.S. capture hundreds of terrorists in urban areas of Pakistan, he has been much less helpful in remote areas, where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is simultaneously one of our best partners against terrorism and at the same time, to a degree, a safe haven against -- a safe haven for terrorists.

HENRY: President Bush needs the cooperation of his Pakistani counterpart more than ever, after sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in advance of an expected spring offensive by terrorists.

If this is true then the decision to surge in Iraq is even worse than we thought, particularly in light of this story today:

Just last week, the nation’s highest-ranking officer, Gen. Peter Pace, secretly upgraded to “significant” the risk the military faces this year in carrying out its full national security mission. He unwaveringly stated that the armed forces would succeed at any mission ordered by the president; the response would just be slower, less elegant, more dangerous.


“At the end of the day, strategy is the management of risk, whether personal or military strategy,” said Jeffrey D. McCausland, a retired Army colonel now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council in New York. “The question is, how much risk are we willing to live with? We are taking a significant amount of strategic risk today because, if you look at our ground forces, we have pulled almost everything out of the box already. So if a major problem arises somewhere else, what do we turn to?”

As a consequence, he said, the United States has lost much of its historic military flexibility. “We know that,” he said. “So do our adversaries. To some degree, Iran and North Korea can play this round of poker more boldly.”

I suspect that we are seeing the results of a Strangelove Strategy on the part of Crazy Cheney and the rest of the kooks in his cadre. They figure they can always use nukes if they have to. No options are off the table, after all.

This is dangerous leadership. The Iraq surge is a waste of time and effort, especially when Afghanistan, which truly does harbor terrorists, (particularly those who have been plotting against Great Britain) is being lost. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is rattling its limp sabres against Iran and putting aircraft carriers like sitting ducks in the middle of the strait of Hormuz just hoping that the government (or some deluded individual) miscalculates.

Cheney is in Pakistan exerting pressure on Musharraf, after the US has spent the last five years working as hard as it can to radicalize as many Muslims as possible. (It takes some real chutzpah to go over there and play the good cop now and try to blame the Democrats for wanting to pull the rug out from under him, but what else is new?) The fact is that if we hadn't take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan we probably could have solved the problem without needing more than Pakistan's tepid help. As it is, we are well and truly screwed. If we push too hard, Musharref goes down and the radicals may very well take over. If we don't, al Qaeda runs around freely plotting their next attack.

I'm sure glad the grown-ups are in charge aren't you?