Obama to say Afghan policy is working, despite latest National Intelligence Estimate to the contrary

In any event, with 16 days left, 2010 has been the most violent year yet for American troops, as was predicted when the surge began.  487 men and women have died in an American uniform this year, including six troops who died Sunday after an explosives-packed minibus blew up at the entrance of a joint NATO-Afghan base in Southern Afghanistan.

And who are we fighting for?  The Afghan people?  Hamid Karzai?  Or the spoken declaration, that "fighting them over there prevents us from fighting them over here," to paraphrase George W. Bush, is what this is about.  You remember, the War on Terrorism.

But do people in our government really take Afghan President Karzai seriously anymore?  Who could forget this story, published in the Washington Post this week, that quotes Karzai in a discussion with David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, and other diplomats sitting around with Karzai, urging him to delay implementing a ban on private security firms.  Then Karzai, who former Ambassador Peter Galbraith speculated indulges in drugs himself (his brother reportedly has links to the heroin trade).

As he spoke, he grew agitated, then enraged. He told them that he now has three "main enemies" - the Taliban, the United States and the international community.

"If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban," he fumed.

After a few more parting shots, he got up and walked out of the wood-paneled room.

The riposte, and the broader fight over private security contractors, prompted deep alarm among senior U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington. The Obama administration had been trying for the better part of a year to cast aside earlier disputes and make nice with Karzai. But it clearly was not working. Eikenberry told colleagues at the embassy that the relationship had hit its lowest point in years.

With all this, we're supposed to sit and watch the President tell us that progress is being made, and we should be content until 2014, which supposedly is the latest deadline to withdraw our troops, because Pakistan will finally get its act together?  This trip has gone on far too long.

Richard Holbrooke reportedly said Afghanistan was the toughest endeavor he'd ever been involved in.  That's no surprise.  What is is expecting to somehow get a major breakthrough one of these years.

So we learned last night that the late Richard Holbrooke's last words he spoke to a hospital physician just before he underwent surgery was "to stop the war," was apparently made "in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy," according to the Washington Post.

That phrase was displayed prominently at the top of two of the biggest websites in the country on Tuesday, the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report.

But even if those words were uttered with complete and sober sincerity, what would it matter?  other than another talking point for critics of the America's imbroglio in Afghanistan that our policy there simply isn't working.

A story in today's New York Times could have come from last year, or the year before.  It's entitled, Mullen Expresses Impatience With Pakistan on Visit. In the story, Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen says that he's guilty of being impatient in trying to have Pakistan come along "quicker" than how the U.S. would prefer is happening now:

“The extremist organizations that are killing Pakistani nationals are a huge challenge to them,” Admiral Mullen said during an interview with a small group of American correspondents. “We all have a sense of urgency about this. We are losing people.”

The problem, he said, is how to manage the need to halt cross-border insurgent attacks while helping build Pakistan’s capabilities to battle domestic insurgents — and to convince the Pakistan government that domestic terrorism is a greater threat than the one perceived from rival India.

“We want to solve it overnight,” Admiral Mullen said. “There is a strategic impatience on the part of myself and others. For the long-term relationship, there has got to be strategic patience. And there is a tension there. I think we both understand that."

With all due respect to Admiral Mullen, how much "strategic patience" does this nation have left for this war?  We're more than nine years into it, and with the surge in troops first announced by President Obama a year ago now complete, what progress has there really been?

We'll find out tomorrow when the administration announce a review of its strategy in Afghanistan, where the President is expected to announce that "progress" is being achieved. But the NY Times Elizabeth Bumiller reports that that rosy scenario will stand in contradiction to two intelligence reports that will be much more negative and said the chance of success is limited unless - yes - Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.

But, Bumiller reports, military commanders and Pentagon officials are already criticizing those reports (one a National Intelligence Estimate) as being out of date, since they ended their reporting on October 1.  Still, there can't possibly be that much improvement over the past two months, can there be?

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