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U.S. Generals Indicate No Quick Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Recent statements from top U.S. generals are dashing hopes in the US and among European Allies that the war in Afghanistan will wind down in the next year, despite President Obama's stated intentions to begin troop reductions in July 2011.

Consider comments from the top U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, General James Conway, reported by Daily Times:
In recent months, US officials have played down expectations of any large withdrawal of troops in July 2011. Conway echoed those sentiments, saying he believed Marines would remain in the south for years. He said that Afghan forces would not be ready to take over security from US troops in key southern provinces for at least a few years.

“I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us,” he said, referring to Marines deployed in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Conway said some Afghan units somewhere might be able to assume the lead for security in 2011 but not in the south.
Further statements by General David Petraeus regarding the Afghanistan drawdown make it clear that the July 2011 date does not signal a hard end of the war, writes
Petraeus also repeated his view that the drawdown in U.S. and NATO forces, scheduled to begin in July 2011, will not result in a swift withdrawal.

"July the date when a process begins. It is not the date when the U.S. forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and a light to turn out," Petraeus said.
General Petraeus discusses the July 2011 drawdown in a video interview with the BBC, found here.

In the article "Why Europe Fears
Petraeus's Urge to Surge", Financial Times argues that European leaders not only desire a more expedient withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also want to pursue a different strategy for ending the conflict based on negotiations with the Taliban:
In discussions with European generals, diplomats and officials – each involved in their government’s Afghan policy – a common fear emerges. That US president Barack Obama will not be able to refuse demands from Gen Petraeus to extend the surge well beyond July 2011; that the general will continue to push for a continuation of military strategy; and that he will decline any suggestion of opening negotiations with the Taliban – something that many Europeans are very keen on.
European officials are coming to the consensus that they would like the Nato summit and Mr Obama’s Afghan policy review – both at the end of the year – to reach a position where negotiating with the Taliban is the political strategy around which military strategy is determined.

Troop withdrawals, which Mr Obama says will start next July, would then take place according to the pace of talks between the US, the Taliban and the Afghan government; not on the basis of hard-to-gauge battlefield success. Europe also wants the US to press Afghanistan’s neighbours not to interfere in its affairs.

Gen Petraeus wants to convince Washington, Nato and Europe to do just the opposite, determining withdrawals on the basis of the military, not the political, situation.

"Superman is wearing black, red and gold this year"

When was the last time the New York Times front page featured a headline with the words "German Surge"? I bet never since WWII.

Well, today's headline might only be at the top of the online edition and only for a few hours.

The good economic news come as quiet a surprise on this side of the Atlantic as well. I got the impression that most folks here don't expect it too last. Thus, consumer spending is not likely to increase, and in consequence our neighbors and the US are likely to continue to complain about our "selfish" economic policy.

Though the NYT points out: "German consumer spending, which tends to be tepid even in good times, contributed to the growth spurt, as the number of people working grew 0.2 percent from a year earlier to 40.3 million, the Federal Statistical Office said."

Bloomberg writes about record German growth (HT: David)

The increase in German GDP was the strongest quarterly gain since records for the reunified country began in 1991. First- quarter growth was also revised to 0.5 percent from 0.2 percent. Euro-area GDP rose 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year.

Continue reading ""Superman is wearing black, red and gold this year""

Preventing History from Repeating Itself

Spiegel International:

German police on Monday closed a mosque that had been a meeting place for the 9/11 terror cell. They believe the mosque continued to promote jihad and may have been a staging site for Islamist extremists living in Germany who have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in militant camps.

Iraq War Enhances US Image as a Colonial Power?

Joe Klein in Time Magazine:

Our attempt to construct an Iraq more amenable to our interests will end no better than the previous attempts by Western colonial powers. Even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own.

There are other consequences of this profound misadventure. The return of the Taliban in Afghanistan is certainly one. If U.S. attention hadn't been diverted from that primary conflict, the story in the Pashtun borderlands might be very different now. The sense of the U.S. as a repository of tempered, honorable actions may never recover from the images of the past decade, especially the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison. The idea that it was our right and responsibility to rid Iraq of a terrible dictator - after the original casus belli of weapons of mass destruction evaporated - turned out to be a neocolonialist delusion. 

The US is now seen as a former colonial power just like France and Britain? Is a more positive legacy of the Iraq war imaginable?