When David Ignatius’ confidence becomes shaky, it’s time to sit up. He is wired into the US security establishment and he is filing his copy from Kabul. He voices doubts about US commander David Petraeus’ capacity to pull it off. Indeed, 2010 is ending with the NATO casualties touching the figure of 700.
Ignatius is lobbing a few tough questions at Petraeus. Three of them nettle my mind. [A] Should the preconditions for Taliban participation in the Afghan power structure - giving up insurgency, delinking from al-Qaeda and adhering to the constitution (abjuring Shariah) - be “altered”? [B] “How can the Pakistan angle be squared? Can we involve Pakistanis more directly in reconciliation efforts? Should we take their advice and negotiate with their friends in the Haqqani network?” [C] What to do with Hamid Karzai? “Should we squeeze him? Ignore him? Dump him?”
Well, well… Ignatius writes: “Petraeus’ campaign plan, to use a simple analogy, is the equivalent of mending a broken, old chair - gluing it back together and holding it in place with a series of clamps. But nobody can say how long the US ‘clamps’ will remian in place, how long it will take the ‘glue’ of transition to dry or how rotten is the Afghan ‘wood’. Those are uncertain variables that Petraeus must hedge against, even as he keeps pushing for success.”
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