March 7, 2009

WHO'S THEIR MOOKIE?:

Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of the Taliban (HELENE COOPER and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 3/07/09, NY Times)

President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. [...]

The president spoke at length about the struggle with terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, staking out positions that at times seemed more comparable to those of his predecessor than many of Mr. Obama’s more liberal supporters would like. He did not rule out the option of snatching terrorism suspects out of hostile countries. [...]

Mr. Obama said on the campaign trail last year that the possibility of breaking away some elements of the Taliban “should be explored,” an idea also considered by some military leaders. But now he has started a review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan intended to find a new strategy, and he signaled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative, mirroring the strategy used by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq.

“If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Mr. Obama said.

At the same time, he acknowledged that outreach may not yield the same success. “The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex,” he said. “You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge.”

For American military planners, reaching out to some members of the Taliban is fraught with complexities. For one thing, officials would have to figure out which Taliban members might be within the reach of a reconciliation campaign, no easy task in a lawless country with feuding groups of insurgents.

And administration officials have criticized the Pakistani government for its own reconciliation deal with local Taliban leaders in the Swat Valley, where Islamic law has been imposed and radical figures hold sway. Pakistani officials have sought to reassure administration officials that their deal was not a surrender to the Taliban, but rather an attempt to drive a wedge between hard-core Taliban leaders and local Islamists.

During the interview, Mr. Obama also left open the option for American operatives to capture terrorism suspects abroad even without the cooperation of a country where they were found. “There could be situations — and I emphasize ‘could be’ because we haven’t made a determination yet — where, let’s say that we have a well-known Al Qaeda operative that doesn’t surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don’t have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person,” he said.

“I think we still have to think about how do we deal with that kind of scenario,” he added. The president went on to say that “we don’t torture” and that “we ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges.”


Do you suppose he even knows that Afghanistan doesn't have a Shi'ite majority to ride herd on its tribesmen?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2009 9:09 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« THE TROUBLE WITH BORROWING REPUBLICAN SEATS: | Main | PARTY LIKE IT'S 1994!: »