The Washington Post just published a devastating editorial on the President's leadership, or lack thereof, on Afghanistan.
There are many reasons why both Afghans and Americans are souring on their alliance, including a few over which this White House has no control. But Mr. Obama and his aides have done much to damage the relationship between the two countries and public morale on both sides. Tuesday's comments were but one more example.
The president came to office pledging a revitalized campaign in Afghanistan. But he began by terminating President Bush's practice of regular personal communications with President Hamid Karzai. Several of his envoys treated Mr. Karzai roughly and disparaged him in public. The U.S. official most able to work with the Afghan leadership, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, was abruptly pushed out of his post because of a hyped magazine article. Mr. Karzai is an erratic personality — but is it any wonder that he has grown increasingly resistant to the Obama administration?
Well, that's our man isn't it? The President was committed to our campaign in Afghanistan. Indeed, back when he was criticizing Bush 43 for the Iraq invasion, one of his points was that Bush neglected Afghanistan. As NPR puts it, during the 2008 presidential campaign
Obama would mention the war in Afghanistan as "the good war," with a direct link to the Sept. 11 attacks. In contrast, the Iraq war was "a war that has not made us more safe, but has distracted us from the task at hand in Afghanistan" — as Obama told a rally in Pennsylvania in April 2008.
It is hardly surprising that President Obama discontinued personal communications with President Karzai. Obama didn't get involved in critical negotiations over the debt ceiling. He has almost no personal relationships with members of Congress in either party. He seems to communicate with his own Administration by means of checking boxes when he is alone, late at night. It is a small wonder, then, that he didn't bother to personally communicate with the leader of a country with whom we are allied in a war.
Okay, so the President isn't a people person. That doesn't excuse his Administration's utter neglect of the Afghan government, let alone his incoherent strategy. Again from the WaPo:
The president reluctantly accepted the advice of his generals that he adopt a strategy of counterinsurgency against the Taliban and send additional troops to carry it out. But he arbitrarily cut the number of troops sought by commanders; set an equally arbitrary deadline for beginning their withdrawal; and rejected the military's advice that the pullout be staged after this year's summer fighting season. Now his aides are reportedly pushing for further troop withdrawals next year, once again against the Pentagon's recommendation. Meanwhile, negotiations with the Taliban are being pursued over Mr. Karzai's head, and sometimes in spite of his objections.
As they watch these moves, Afghans, the Taliban and neighbors such as Pakistan can reasonably conclude that the United States, rather than trying to win the war, is racing to implement an exit strategy in which the interests of Afghans and their government are slighted. Americans, meanwhile, rarely hear Mr. Obama explain the mission or the stakes.
The President imposed arbitrary cuts and arbitrary deadlines. He decided to invest blood and treasure in a counterinsurgency strategy while simultaneously making it clear to everyone including our mortal enemies that we were pulling out no matter what the outcome. Again, that's our man.
Let us remember that Afghanistan was the platform from which Osama bin Laden planned and launched the September 11th attack on the United States. To be fair, it isn't clear what kind of policy could have succeeded there. That didn't stop the President from making an utter mess of it. The WaPo calls his words "troubling". That is gentle enough, but when a Democratic President loses the WaPo he has lost a lot.