In the Arena

Petraeus Power

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Amazing how David Petraeus can just crash through impasses and get his way. He’s even able to do get Hamid Karzai, who has boggled every other American who has dealt with him, to do something he doesn’t want to do–set up a system of local militias in rural Afghanistan. Karzai’s concerns are legitimate: the local militias would be more loyal to their tribes than to him, they might be infiltrated by the Taliban, they might start fighting each other.

But Petraeus’s counter-argument was legitimate as well: the training of the Afghan National Army and police isn’t going so well, in large part because it takes time for a proper officer corps to evolve and prove itself worthy of leadership. Organizing from the ground up is the traditional that Afghans defend themselves.

I don’t know–I doubt any American knows–which, if either or both or parts of both, of these arguments is correct. We should have some sense whether Petraeus’ resort to the tribes, which worked in Iraq, will have similar success in Afghanistan by the time the Obama policy review commences in December. But you have to be impressed by the general’s ability to get his way, without much fuss and quickly.