Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'In the Graveyard of Empires' By Seth G. Jones

NY Times

The Choices That Closed a Window Into Afghanistan

Among the many lasting consequences of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was the collateral damage it inflicted on Afghanistan and the war there against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Money, troops and expertise were diverted to Iraq, and as the RAND Corporation political scientist Seth G. Jones observes in his useful new book, the initial success of the military operation in Afghanistan was squandered.

The slender window for securing a stable democracy in Afghanistan began to close, and by 2006, Mr. Jones writes, a “perfect storm of political upheaval” had gathered, with several crises ominously converging: “Pakistan emerged as a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, allowing them to conduct a greater number of operations from bases across the border; Afghan governance became unhinged as corruption worked its way through the government like a cancer, leaving massive discontent throughout the country; and the international presence, hamstrung by the U.S. focus on Iraq, was too small to deal with the escalating violence.”

The first major operation using additional troops sent to Afghanistan by President Obama recently began in the southern part of that country, even as Taliban advances in border regions have aided Al Qaeda’s efforts to destabilize neighboring Pakistan.

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