What does it mean to tell the truth about a war? Is it a lie, technically speaking, for the Administration to say that it has faith in Hamid Karzai’s government and regards him as a legitimate leader—or is it just absurd? Is it a lie to say that we have a plan for Afghanistan that makes any sense at all? If you put it that way, each of the WikiLeaks documents—from an account of an armed showdown between the Afghan police and the Afghan Army, to a few lines about a local interdiction official taking seventy-five-dollar bribes, to a sad exchange about an aid scam involving orphans—is a pixel in a picture that does, indeed, contradict official accounts of the war, and rather drastically so.
The New Yorker: Wikileaks and the War
The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.
Richard Haass, on Afghanistan
Annals of Leadership
In which Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai find that running the Taliban is much like running a large corporation: The troops really need reassurance from the top:
Omar could settle many issues among his followers, perhaps even urge them to accept a peace deal, with only a few words, either in person or in an audio recording. “But he has never done that so far,” the senior insurgent said. “The slightest sign of involvement by Mullah Omar might provide a clue to his trail. So he stays away.” That remoteness frustrates many Taliban members, even though they understand the need for secrecy. “I question the wisdom of keeping away his voice from the many fighting for the thousands who have sacrificed their lives in his name,” says a Taliban intelligence officer who declined to be named for security reasons.
“I think it is just best to say I’m a realist. The reality is that Afghanistan is hard; it is hard all the time, and what we are endeavoring to do is going to be very, very challenging. As Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal said, ‘The situation is serious, but the mission is doable.’ I do agree with that, but I do that in a way that is coldly realistic, that assesses the challenges and how difficult the tasks are.”
-Gen. David Petraeus, in an interview with NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zakaria
Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek
Talk to Russian veterans of Afghanistan and it’s hard not to think that they’re rooting for the U.S. to lose. For these proud men, seeing NATO succeed at a job they botched would deepen the humiliation of defeat. Easier to affirm that if the Soviets couldn’t win there, no one can. “We did not succeed and you will not either,” says Gen. Victor Yermakov, who commanded Soviet forces in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1983. “They didn’t trust us. They won’t trust you.” Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, who served in Afghanistan under the occupation and has just completed a four-year term as Russia’s envoy in the country, is no more optimistic. “We tried to impose communism. You are trying to impose democracy,” he says. “There is no mistake made by the Soviet Union that the international community has not repeated.
Matthews and Nemtsova, on the Russian view of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.