June 22, 2012
It appears to be time for a redo of President Obama’s famed “reset” on Russia.
The president, after all, has little to show for it beyond a treaty reducing long-range nuclear arsenals on both sides and Russian acquiescence in the use of its territory to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan. And those limited achievements spring directly from Russia’s self-interest. Russia’s long-rage nuke stocks need cutting for financial reasons. As for Afghanistan: Russia doesn’t want to see a Taliban victory either, so its interests align with America’s.
June 5, 2012
After the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda, the world said: Never again. And there have been interventions to stop the killing — in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. But these have been the exception, not the norm. Even now, as horrifying violence unfolds in Syria, the U.S. and its allies find reasons to limit their response to economic sanctions accompanied by strongly worded, but ineffectual, statements of condemnation.
May 31, 2012The Snake Eaters By Owen West (Free Press, 262 pages, $26)
Next summer, the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is due to shift from fighting the Taliban to advising the Afghans on how to defend themselves. American commanders are already preparing to deploy advisory teams to mentor the Afghan forces. If the experience of Iraq is anything to go by, most of those teams are likely to be made of reservists and active-duty cast-offs—"odds and sods," as the British say—with scant preparation for their critical mission.
May 1, 2012
The one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan (it was still May 1 back in the United States), is certain to be the occasion for a victory lap by the Obama administration. Or two. In fact, the demise of al Qaeda’s leader has already become a centerpiece of the president’s re-election campaign. Vice President Joe Biden recently said that the entire presidency could be summed up as follows: “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
April 18, 2012
The Tet Offensive it wasn't. On Sunday, insurgents belonging to the Haqqani network attacked seven high-profile sites in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Forces responded swiftly and professionally with minimal assistance from NATO. Far more insurgents wound up dying (36) than members of the security forces (11). Life in the capital has already returned to normal. When I was there a few weeks ago, I saw a thriving city where the biggest daily concerns are traffic jams and air pollution—not insurgent attacks.
March 26, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 27
It’s been a bad few weeks in Afghanistan. The burning of several Korans by U.S. military personnel at the Bagram airbase on February 20 sparked protests and riots. More troubling were several incidents of “green on blue” attacks in which Afghan security personnel turned on their American advisers; six American soldiers died in such attacks, including two officers slain in the Interior Ministry in Kabul. As a result, NATO advisers were temporarily pulled out of all the ministries in the capital. Then on March 11 an American staff sergeant walked out of his small base in a village north of Kandahar and, for reasons that remain unknown, murdered 16 civilians. A few days later Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived at a giant Anglo-American base in Helmand Province just as an Afghan employee was attempting to run down some VIPs on the runway in a stolen pickup truck. Last week ended with President Hamid Karzai demanding that U.S. troops stop operating in villages altogether and pull back to larger forward operating bases and with the Taliban announcing that they were pulling out of nascent peace talks.