Afghan war debate now leans to focus on Al Qaeda in Pakistan: NYT
October 08, 2009, 6:04 am
ident Obamas national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against Al Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan does not pose a direct threat to the United States, officials said Wednesday. As Mr. Obama met with advisers for three hours to discuss Pakistan, the White House said he had not decided whether to approve a proposed troop buildup in Afghanistan. But the shift in thinking, outlined by senior administration officials on Wednesday, suggests that the president has been presented with an approach that would not require all of the additional troops that his commanding general in the region has requested. It remains unclear whether everyone in Mr. Obamas war cabinet fully accepts this view. While Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has argued for months against increasing troops in Afghanistan because Pakistan was the greater priority, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have both warned that the Taliban remain linked to Al Qaeda and would give their fighters havens again if the Taliban regained control of all or large parts of Afghanistan, making it a mistake to think of them as separate problems. Moreover, Mr. Obamas commander there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has argued that success demands a substantial expansion of the American presence, up to 40,000 more troops. Any decision that provides less will expose the president to criticism, especially from Republicans, that his policy is a prescription for failure. The White House appears to be trying to prepare the ground to counter that by focusing attention on recent successes against Qaeda cells in Pakistan. The approach described by administration officials on Wednesday amounted to an alternative to the analysis presented by General McChrystal. If, as the White House has asserted in recent weeks, it has improved the ability of the United States to reduce the threat from Al Qaeda, then the war in Afghanistan is less important to American security. In reviewing General McChrystals request, the White House is rethinking what was, just six months ago, a strategy that viewed Pakistan and Afghanistan as a single integrated problem, according to several administration officials and outsiders who have spoken with them. Now the discussions in the White House Situation Room are focusing on related but separate strategies for fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Clearly, Al Qaeda is a threat not only to the U.S. homeland and American interests abroad, but it has a murderous agenda, one senior administration official said in an interview initiated by the White House on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because the strategy review has not been finished. We want to destroy its leadership, its infrastructure and its capability. The official contrasted that with the Afghan Taliban, which the administration has begun to define as an indigenous group that aspires to reclaim territory and rule the country but does not express ambitions of attacking the United States. When the two are aligned, its mainly on the tactical front, the official said, noting that Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters in Afghanistan. Another official, who also was authorized to speak but not to be identified, said the different views of Al Qaeda and the Taliban were driving the presidents review. To the extent that Al Qaeda has been degraded, and it has, and to the extent you believe you need to focus on destroying it going forward, what is required going forward? the official asked. And to prevent it from having a safe haven? The officials argued that while Al Qaeda was a foreign body, the Taliban could not be wholly removed from Afghanistan because they were too ingrained in the country. Moreover, the forces often described as Taliban are actually an amalgamation of militants that includes local warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani network or others driven by local grievances rather than jihadist ideology. Mr. Obama has defined his mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan as trying to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world. But he made it clear during a visit to the National Counterterrorism Center on Tuesday that the larger goal behind the mission was to protect the United States. Thats the principal threat to the American people, he said. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday that Mr. Obamas primary focus is on groups and their allies that can strike our homeland, strike our allies, or groups who would provide safe haven for those that wish to do that. The discussion about whether the Taliban pose a threat to the United States has been at the heart of the administrations debate about what to do in Afghanistan. Some in the Biden camp say that the Taliban can be contained with current troop levels and eventually by Afghan forces trained by the United States. Moreover, they suggest that the Taliban have no interest in letting Al Qaeda back into Afghanistan because that was what cost them power when they were toppled by American-backed Afghan rebels in 2001. The policy people and the intelligence people inside are having a big argument over this, said Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised Mr. Biden. Is the Taliban a loose collection of people we can split up? Can we split the Taliban from Al Qaeda? If the Taliban comes back to power in parts of Afghanistan, are they going to bring Al Qaeda back with them? Some analysts say that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have actually grown closer since the first American bombs fell on the Shomali Plains north of Kabul eight years ago Tuesday. The kind of separation that existed between the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001 really doesnt exist anymore, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has advised General McChrystal. You have much more ideological elements in the Taliban. In the east, theyre really mixed in with Al Qaeda. Frances Fragos Townsend, who was President George W. Bushs homeland security adviser, said the two groups remained linked. Its a dangerous argument to assume that the Taliban wont revert to where they were pre-9/11 and provide Al Qaeda sanctuary, she said. Referring to General McChrystal, she added, If you dont give him the troops he asked for and continue with the Predator strikes, you can kill them one at a time, but youre not going to drain the swamp. Officials said Wednesday that General McChrystals official request for additional forces was forwarded to Mr. Obama last week. Mr. Gatess spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said Mr. Gates had given Mr. Obama an informal copy at the presidents request. The meeting on Wednesday was Mr. Obamas third with his full national security team. Another is scheduled for Friday to talk about Afghanistan and then a fifth is planned, possibly for next week. Mr. Gibbs said the president was still several weeks away from a decision.(NYT)
December 24, 2011
Opposition leader in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday said his party wa...
December 23, 2011
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has said that his party will support the ...