Sources within both the intelligence and military communities tell McClatchy that Barack Obama’s White House has not been honest about the risks of moving away from a robust strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Obama and his advisers have begun publicly discussing the Taliban as a moderate alternative to al-Qaeda in terms of enemies, but the latest intelligence shows just the opposite. Taliban leadership and AQ have integrated even more tightly than ever since 9/11 and act in concert on strategy and tactics:
As the Obama administration reconsiders its Afghanistan policy, White House officials are minimizing warnings from the intelligence community, the military and the State Department about the risks of adopting a limited strategy focused on al Qaida, U.S. intelligence, diplomatic and military officials told McClatchy.
Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have found that the Taliban and other Pakistan-based groups that are fighting U.S.-led forces have much closer ties to al Qaida now than they did before 9/11, would allow the terrorist network to re-establish bases in Afghanistan and would help Osama bin Laden export his radical brand of Islam to Afghanistan’s neighbors and beyond, the officials said.
McClatchy interviewed more than 15 senior and mid-level U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic officials, all of whom said they concurred with the assessments. All of them requested anonymity because the assessments are classified and the officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Bob Kerrey openly wonders why the White House has begun to tread the ground of retreat, in an op-ed for today’s Wall Street Journal:
Yet despite these setbacks, our leaders must remain focused on the fact that success in Afghanistan bolsters our national security and yes, our moral reputation. This war is not Vietnam. The Taliban are not popular and have very little support other than what they secure through terror.
Afghanistan is also not Iraq. No serious leader in Kabul is asking us to leave. Instead we are being asked to withdraw by American leaders who begin their analysis with the presumption that victory is not possible. They seem to want to ensure defeat by leaving at the very moment when our military leader on the ground has laid out a coherent and compelling strategy for victory.
When it comes to foreign policy, almost nothing matters more then your friends and your enemies knowing you will keep your word and follow through on your commitments. This is the real test of presidential leadership. I hope that President Obama—soon to be a Nobel laureate—passes with flying colors.
If the military and intel communities are telling Obama that the idea of a “moderate Taliban” is false — and Lara Logan emphatically agrees — then where did this idea arise in the first place? It comes not from Afghanistan, but from the left wing of the Democratic Party. They have increased pressure on Obama to get out of Afghanistan, and the Nobel Peace Prize was specifically intended to help in that effort. The Left wants a way out of the war, and the Obama administration has begun floating trial balloons to help sell this as something other than a retreat, if Obama goes along with it.
Kerrey doesn’t think Obama will do so, and to his credit, Obama has increased resources and offered stalwart political support for the war … until last month, when he finally got schooled on COIN resourcing. If Obama intends on making an honest decision on this, he needs to stop his advisers from making very dishonest arguments in public about it. The Taliban are not moderates, and they share the same ideological, political, and tactical goals as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Anyone saying anything differently is simply selling a false argument for a dishonorable retreat in the face of our enemies.