As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

No Base For You

I think this is the reason we haven't heard about any additional troop deployments in Afghanistan:

Kyrgyzstan said on Friday its decision to shut a U.S. air base was final, dealing a blow to Washington's efforts to retain what has been an important staging post for U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.

The United States said it was still "engaged" with Kyrgyzstan about keeping the Manas base in the poor, former Soviet republic and traditional Russian ally. But one senior Kyrgyz official said no talks were currently taking place.

Kyrgyzstan's stance has set a tough challenge for new U.S. President Barack Obama, who plans to send more troops to Afghanistan to try to boost NATO efforts to defeat Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

The Kyrgyz leaders are saying that there aren't any talks going on, either. Tajikistan has tentatively offered air space rights, and the Uzbeks potentially a rail supply route, but that's going to take some time. And so this delayed decision on additional troops until a strategy decision is made could be true, but it also could be that there's nowhere to put the troops to get them into the country. The deadline for the strategy review is April which should be enough time to come up with some basing solution.

However, the longer this review takes, the more President Obama may look closer at the deteriorating situation on the ground, the perils of escalation, and the difficulty finding allies in the region, and he may decide that it's just not worth it:

The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Robert Gates, the defence secretary, postponed the decision after questions from Obama.

The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the US joint chiefs of staff last month in “the tank”, the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: “What’s the endgame?” and did not receive a convincing answer.

Larry Korb, a defence expert at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, said: “Obama is exactly right. Before he agrees to send 30,000 troops, he wants to know what the mission and the endgame is.”

The President is being very smart by insisting on knowing what the hell is going on before committing American lives and more treasure. Afghanistan as it's currently constructed is dysfunctional and perhaps impossible to save, especially with the lack of leadership at the top. Reports are that Karzai is hated inside the country and he still thinks he can con the Americans:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A foretaste of what would be in store for President Hamid Karzai after the election of a new American administration came last February, when Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator, sat down to a formal dinner at the palace during a visit here.

Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world. Mr. Karzai assured Mr. Biden and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any case, it was not his fault.

The senators gaped in astonishment. After 45 minutes, Mr. Biden threw down his napkin and stood up.

“This dinner is over,” Mr. Biden announced, according to one of the people in the room at the time. And the three senators walked out, long before the appointed time.

Today, of course, Mr. Biden is the vice president.

The domestic wrangling has been disheartening, but America is better served by this more deliberate and reality-based foreign policy. Hopefully that continues even after the basing problems are solved. See also: Don't escalate in Afghanistan.

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