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Obama Should Read WikiLeaks on Afghanistan

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Perhaps President Barack Obama should give himself a waiver on the ban prohibiting U.S. government employees from downloading classified cables released by WikiLeaks, so he can get a better grasp on the futility of his Afghan War strategy.

For instance, if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hidden from him Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's cables from Kabul, he might wish to search out KABUL 001892 of July 13, 2009, in which Eikenberry reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "unable to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state building."

And, while he's at it, he should dig out the September 2009 cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, in which she warns: "There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance " as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these [Taliban and similar] groups in Pakistan."

The same conclusion is contained in the recent National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan. My advice to Obama would be: Don't let anyone gist them for you; read at least the Key Judgments.

In his recent defense of his Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, Obama acted as if he didn't know or understand the full import of these disclosures. Instead, he simply reiterated the "three areas of our strategy" in Afghanistan:

"To break the Taliban's momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead; to promote effective governance and development; and regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan, because our strategy has to succeed on both sides of the border."

But, Mr. President, you should know that the Taliban's momentum has not been broken; nor is it likely to be. And good luck with President Karzai on that "effective governance" thing, not to mention the part about getting cooperation from Pakistan. Indeed, the real Achilles heel of Obama's strategy, the true showstopper, is the forlorn hope of stronger cooperation from Pakistan.

Other WikiLeaks cables make Pakistan's deep concern about the encroachment of India in Afghanistan unmistakably clear. In one cable, for example, Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani is reported to have been "utterly frank" about the consequences of a pro-India government coming to power in Kabul, saying:

"The Pakistani establishment will dramatically increase support for Taliban groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan " as an important counterweight."

The Great Game

So, here's the important point to understand: While U.S. presidents and European leaders have long viewed Afghanistan as a strategic square on the global chessboard " from the British imperial Great Game to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War to today's "war on terror" " Pakistan sees its Afghan neighbor in the context of Pakistan's fierce regional rivalry with India.

Indeed, Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, the ISI, created the Taliban in the 1990s by recruiting Afghan refugees in Pakistan and building them into a force to drive out an Afghan mujahedeen regime in Kabul that Pakistan regarded as having overly close ties to India.

So, Mr. President, with respect to your third "area of strategy" -- getting Pakistan to "cooperate" -- you may wish to be more careful in making claims like: "Along with our Afghan partners, we've gone on the offensive, targeting the Taliban and its leaders and pushing them out of their strongholds."

Thanks for listening.

What the President Obama doesn't tell us is where those pushed-out Taliban go, but we know, don't we? They go across the border and are given refuge by the same Pakistanis who continue to keep them supplied, trained and armed -- as is abundantly clear in several of the ground-truth U.S. Army messages in the "Afghanistan War Logs" made available by WikiLeaks.

Has no one told the President that Pakistan's ace-in-the-hole against encroachment by archrival India into Afghanistan is none other than the Taliban?

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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