Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Afghan Updates

--A TWR reader reminded me that if we take President Obama's statements to MSNBC as indicative of policy, we've returned to September 2001--to the initial offer made by President Bush to the Taliban. Turn over Al-Qaeda and don't export subversion to other states, and we won't interfere in your internal affairs. Is that an accurate read--commentary welcome.

--In reference to my National Interest piece, a comment: that the U.S. hasn't been ejected from Kyrgyzstan yet--but now is the time for haggling and bargaining. The question is whether Washington tries to outbid Moscow in direct talks with Bishkek, or whether the future of the Manas base becomes tied to the U.S.-Russia tete-a-tete regarding NATO.

On your first point, there is a third (and in my view more likely) outcome, in which the Afghan Taliban do not turn over al-Qaida leaders to the US but do restrict their activity. If the Afghan Taliban give senior al-Qaida figures political asylum in return for ceasing to run terror attacks from Afghan territory, the US could agree to withdraw. I'm not sure such an arrangement would work (would the threat of our coming back be credible?) but if we don't have the desire to commit any further then it is a way in which the commitment could end.

On your second point, have the Russians tied cooperation over Afghanistan to agreement over NATO? I thought the issue for us with Russia was Iran. I don't see any momentum in Washington for further NATO expansion or missile defenses in eastern Europe.
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