Quotes of the day

“[N]ow, after nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military

“‘The extremists are sensing weakness and indecision within the U.S. government, which plays into their hands,’ said Mr. Tradewell’s statement on behalf of [the Veterans of Foreign Wars], which represents 1.5 million former soldiers…

“A retired general who served in Iraq said that the military had listened, ‘perhaps naïvely,’ to Mr. Obama’s campaign promises that the Afghan war was critical. ‘What’s changed, and are we having the rug pulled out from under us?’ he asked…

“Another source of tension within the military is the view that a delay is endangering the 68,000 American troops now in Afghanistan. ‘McChrystal has troops out there who are risking their lives more than they need to, partly because we have not filled in the gaps and we have not created a safe zone in southern and eastern Afghanistan,’ said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution.”

***
“But, in recent years, Taliban leaders have drawn especially close to Al Qaeda… Today, at the leadership level, the Taliban and Al Qaeda function more or less as a single entity. The signs of this are everywhere. For instance, IED attacks in Afghanistan have increased dramatically since 2004. What happened? As a Taliban member told Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau of Newsweek, ‘The Arabs taught us how to make an IED by mixing nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel and how to pack plastic explosives and to connect them to detonators and remote-control devices like mobile phones. We learned how to do this blindfolded so we could safely plant IEDs in the dark.’ Another explained that ‘Arab and Iraqi mujahedin began visiting us, transferring the latest IED technology and suicide-bomber tactics they had learned in the Iraqi resistance.’ Small numbers of Al Qaeda instructors embedded with much larger Taliban units have functioned something like U.S. Special Forces do–as trainers and force multipliers…

“[T]he last time the Taliban controlled a state, it was not so interested in realpolitik; after September 11, the group made clear that it was prepared to lose everything (and it did) rather than betray bin Laden. Since then, the Taliban’s leadership has grown more closely aligned with Al Qaeda’s worldwide goals — not less. Today, the Taliban seems to view itself as the vanguard of a global movement that is waging God-sanctioned holy war against the infidels. Foreign policy realists want to gamble that this group, once back in power, will suddenly transform into an ultra-rational clique of Henry Kissingers. Anything could happen, I guess. But, given everything we know about the Taliban, is that really a wise wager to make?…

“It can be a peaceful nation again. And, if America is to keep Al Qaeda at bay, it must be.”

***
“The Taliban haven’t changed. Last year, men on motorcycles used water pistols to squirt acid in the faces of girls going to school. This year, the Taliban have taken to spraying poison in the courtyards of girls schools. What Biden is essentially proposing is to concede more and more of Afghanistan to such people while relying more heavily on U.S. air power to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. Since air strikes are far more likely to kill innocent civilians than are U.S GIs, Biden’s vision is — for Afghan women in particular — a vision of hell. On the ground, you live in beast-like submission, and from the air, chunks of your village are periodically set aflame.

“Somewhere, Donald Rumsfeld is chuckling.”