Will Osama's death change U.S. policy in Afghanistan?

And there's no doubt that on occasion, he speaks the flat-out truth. You could say that was the case on Monday, the day the world learned that Osama bin Laden had been holed up not in a remote part of the tribal area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but just a few hundred meters from the military academy known as Pakistan’s Sandhurst.

This prompted Karzai to say

“The world should realize as we said many many times, and continue to say everyday, the fight against terrorism is not in Afghanistan’s villages, the fight against terrorism is not in the houses of poor and oppressed Afghans, the fight is not in bombing women and children,” he said. “The fight against terrorism is in its sanctuaries, in its training camps and its finance centers, not in Afghanistan and today it has been proved we were right.”

“Before the 9/11 event in New York City where 3,000 were killed, for many years he was killing and harassing the people of Afghanistan. After that and right up until today, the innocent people of Afghanistan die and are wounded and suffer from terrorists and their activities.”

Karzai is on point and it should be noted. There has been so much killing in his country over its history, but in particular over the past decade, since he's been in control.

But as we never tire to note, former CIA Director Leon Panetta (now about to become head of the Pentagon) said on ABC a year ago that only about 50-100 Al Qaeda were in Afghanistan!

Now it appears that Bin Laden's death could prompt the U.S. to change its strategy in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal quotes "officials familiar with U.S. strategy debates" that the new development could see the U.S. shift from counterinsurgency operations against Taliban strongholds to more narrowly focused counter-terrorism raids against insurgent leaders.

But there is a bipartisan surge on Capital Hill to insure that the U.S. doesn't change its schedule of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, apparently. From the Journal:

Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut, said it would be wrong to withdraw quickly. "If we did that, we would repeat a mistake that we've made once before when we pulled out of Afghanistan and that region after the Soviets did" in the late 1980s, he said.

Though the U.S. military sees progress in the war, pointing to campaigns in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand over the past year, the Taliban remain a formidable foe, retaining the ability to launch daily attacks, assassinating government officials and operating a shadow government in large swaths of the countryside.

Aiming in part to address concerns about a premature withdrawal, U.S. Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry said Monday that "America's strong support for the people of Afghanistan will continue as before."

A senior NATO adviser in Kabul concurred. "In terms of our campaign in Afghanistan, I don't foresee much immediate consequence," the adviser said.

Oh well. At least it was a thought.

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai
  • Afghan leader Hamid Karzai

Now it's a fact that Afghan leader Hamid Karzai doesn't have a whole lot of credibility with Americans. His flakiness is legendary, and the fact that we have our men and women losing their lives for his government is a bitter pill to swallow for many who feel the U.S. effort will never pay off in the end.

Karzai's erratic behavior, manifested last summer when he said he might join the Taliban (and which prompted former United Nations diplomat Peter Galbraith a year ago to suggest the president might be on drugs) is reason enough to believe that he is not the leader that the U.S. and their allies in Afghanistan can have any confidence in.

But his supporters would say he is in an incredibly tenuous situation, trying to appease the Americans and his own people, who in some cases very much resent a foreign power having 100,000 military troops in their presence.

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