In the Arena

Nothing New in Afghanistan

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The New York Times is reporting–and the Huffington Post is trumpeting–the fact that there is a new emphasis on counter-terrorism in Afghanistan. This is not news. In April, I reported that counterterrorism–the targeted killing of mid-level Taliban leaders–was the only part of the war that was working. And then I did it again here. And several other journalists have followed suit.

As I’ve been saying, the only possible solution in Afghanistan is a deal with the Taliban. Putting a hurt on the Taliban leadership may be the best way to get the insurgents to the table. One senses that there are negotiations among the Afghans, Pakistanis and Taliban right now. The question is whether Hamid Karzai can come up with a formula that is acceptable to both the Taliban–and also to the non-Pashtun, Taliban-hating 40% or so of the Afghan population (including 90% or so of his Army). That will not be easy.

But I do think that the idea of a long-term counterinsurgency strategy working in Afghanistan is dead as a doornail. Such a strategys require a reliable Afghan partner. We haven’t got one. We could develop one over time, lots of time…but then, over time, Glenn Beck could repent for provoking the nutcases of America into paranoid violence. I wouldn’t count on it.

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