President Obama has already dispatched an additional 21,000 American troops
to Afghanistan and soon will decide whether to send thousands more. That would be a fateful decision for his presidency, and a group of former intelligence officials and other experts is now reluctantly going public to warn that more troops would be a historic mistake.
The group’s concern — dead right, in my view — is that sending more
American troops into ethnic
Pashtun areas in the Afghan south may only galvanize local people to back
the Taliban in repelling the infidels.
“Our policy makers do not understand that the very presence of our
forces in the Pashtun areas is the problem,” the group said in a statement to
me. “The more troops we put in, the greater the opposition. We do not mitigate
the opposition by increasing troop levels, but rather we increase the opposition
and prove to the Pashtuns that the Taliban are correct.
“The basic ignorance by our leadership is going to cause the deaths of
many fine American troops with no positive outcome,” the statement said.
The group includes Howard
Hart, a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan; David
Miller, a former ambassador and National Security Council official; William J.
Olson, a counterinsurgency scholar at the National Defense University; and
another C.I.A. veteran who does not want his name published but who spent 12
years in the region, was station chief in Kabul at the time the Soviets invaded
Afghanistan in 1979, and later headed the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center.
“We share a concern that the country is driving over a cliff,” Mr.
Mr. Hart, who helped organize the anti-Soviet insurgency in the
1980s, cautions that Americans just don’t understand the toughness,
determination and fighting skills of the Pashtun tribes. He adds that if the
U.S. escalates the war, the result will be radicalization of Pashtuns in
Pakistan and further instability there — possibly even the collapse of
These experts are not people who crave publicity; I had to persuade
them to go public with their concerns. And their views are widely shared among
others who also know Afghanistan well.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Driving Off A Cliff
Nicholas Kristof, colleague of Friedman at the NYT, writes today as well of his deep concerns about our military strategy in Afghanistan: