Beware misinterpreting Obama. Afghanistan is an asset and the US won't be leaving any time soon
By Simon Tisdall
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 6 December 2009
".....Iraq and Afghanistan are America's sudoku wars. Put simply, by occupying blank or vacated spaces, Washington gets a handle on the nextdoor squares. It's a geostrategic numbers game. Thus what follows, in logical sequence, are Pakistan and Iran. In this continuing gambit to "shape the security environment", as US planners say, Afghanistan is an irreplaceable asset.
Barack Obama's West Point speech, setting a July 2011 "timeline" for the start of an American withdrawal, was widely misinterpreted. It is true, the speech was no call to arms. In domestic terms, it could be termed political damage limitation. But it is not surrender.
Within hours, defence secretary Robert Gates was telling Congress the 18-month target marked merely the beginning of a "gradual, condition-based process" of transferring security responsibilities in key areas to Afghan forces. Addressing Nato last Friday, Hillary Clinton fudged further. In point of fact, there is no deadline for withdrawal, and none is in prospect.......
Returning from the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1880, General Frederick "Little Bobs" Roberts made a modern point: "The best thing to do is leave it [Afghanistan] as much as possible to itself. It may not be very flattering to out amour propre, but I feel sure I am right when I say the less the Afghans see of us, the less they will dislike us."
The powers that be didn't listen then. And as the first Afghan-American warrapidly escalates, they're not listening now."