Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Brzezinski on Afghanistan

Nouri Lumendifi points to a short piece in FT quoting Brzezinski:

Mr Obama has called for up to 10,000 more US troops to be deployed in the country, where the USSR once sent tens of thousands of soldiers only to suffer cataclysmic military failure.

But in an interview with the Financial Times Mr Brzezinski warned: “It is important for US policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognise that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution . . . We are running the risk of repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made . . . Our strategy is getting in deeper and deeper.”

He added that while the Soviets invaded the country thinking there was a communist Afghan elite on which they could rely, “we have to be careful not to overestimate the appeal of the democratic Afghan elite, because we run the risk that our military presence . . . will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us”.

Afghan society was deeply conservative and resistant to dramatic change, he said.

My familiarity with Zbgniew Brzezinski goes way back and I have a deep respect for whatever he says. I'm an enthusiastic Obama supporter but I hope his statements about shifting combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan are partly political position-taking rather than what he deeply wants.

Afghanistan was to the Soviet Union what Vietnam was to the US. Part of the reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was Reagan's saber-rattling -- star wars weapons and all that -- which prompted a self-destructive policy shift in an already over-extended military budget, which helped sink the Russian boat once and for all. Adding that drain to the Afghan quagmire was the final blow and they had to give up and go home.

It didn't help the future American image in Afghanistan that US policy flirted any group, including the Taliban, fighting the Russians. Add to that bag of mixed messages the US War on Poppies Drugs, and Afghan mistrust of America is a near guarantee.

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