Afghanistan situation doesn't appear to be getting better

This is hardly the first time there's been conflict between Karzai and the Obama administration.  But the U.S. doesn't have much say so on who's running Afghanistan, and he's always been said to be our best bet.

The much bigger question is: Is having over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan ultimately making America safer?  The foreign policy establishment says yes, but as commentators on Fox News Sunday said later Sunday, the question is how will the U.S. really pull out of Afghanistan in large numbers next December?  The U.S. record historically shows that's not the case (we still do have troops in Germany and South Korea, after all).

This debate comes as there was barely a ripple in the media that the U.S. has lost over 1,000 troops killed in Afghanistan, passing that grim milestone last week.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert on Saturday articulated some of the concern that those who think about this situation have expressed since the Obama administration announced an escalation, or "surge" in troops to the region last year, but with an explicit date when they would start returning home.  In conclusion, he blamed Americans apathy for not giving more of a damn about what's happening in their - and our - name.

Ultimately, the public is at fault for this catastrophe in Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 G.I.’s have now lost their lives. If we don’t have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we’re unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we’re not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it.

On Saturday, the NY Times published a blockbuster story about Afghan President Hamid Kharzai having "lost faith" that the U.S. and NATO will win out in Afghanistan.  Reporter Dexter Filkins wrote:

People close to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.

“Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.”

It brings the central question to any U.S. foreign intervention- what is our purpose, and can it ever work? Something about Al Queda coming over here, we've heard in the past, but skepticism grows that it's working.

To combat those theories gaining even wider credence, Susan Rice, the Obama administration's ambassador to the United Nations, strongly rebuked the thrust of Filkins story on Fox News Sunday, calling it "fallacious"

“We don’t have any basis for seeing it as the New York Times portrays it.  We have every confidence that the U.S. and NATO, working with our Afghan partners, will defeat the Taliban. Hamid Karzai remains an important partner in the Afghan government.”

At the same time on Meet The Press, White House political adviser David Axelrod went even further in trying to diminish the report, which quoted extensively from the former director of the Afghan intelligence service, Amrullah Saleh:

"As to this issue, understand that Mr. Saleh [formerly director of the Afghan intelligence service] was fired by president Karzai so that may help color some of his interpretations," said Axelrod. "And Mr. Karzai rejected his interpretation of this, at the end of the day, however we have always said the future of Afghanistan will involve a political solutions, just as it did in Iraq, and ultimately if the Taliban is wiling to lay down arms... that would be part of the solution. Meanwhile we are putting pressure on them everyday."

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