Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Try 'Pakistan First'

Washington Post, Sunday, April 27, 2008

By Jim Hoagland


Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer the same beguiling Democratic version of the global war on terrorism: Get out of Iraq and put more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to win that conflict decisively. Republicans are also increasingly urging President Bush to adopt an Afghanistan-first policy.

"The basic failure in priorities" in Bush's war on terrorism lies "in the fact that our monthly investment in Iraq is $10 billion a month and $2 billion a month in Afghanistan," writes David Abshire, a GOP elder statesman, in "A Call to Greatness," a new book intended to set the agenda for the next presidency. When a Republican White House loses a seasoned foreign policy thinker such as Abshire on a key issue, it has big problems.

So does the solution that is being pushed. A major shift in resources into Afghanistan may not significantly help in that battle in the near term. Decisions on drawing down forces in Iraq should be based on conditions there -- as Gen. David Petraeus argued to Congress this month -- and not on campaign-fostered illusions that troop numbers and money alone can turn the tide against terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bush's decision last week to put Petraeus in charge of the Pentagon's Central Command and thus of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan will intensify this Iraq vs. Afghanistan argument on Capitol Hill. Critics see the Petraeus promotion as a Bush ploy to keep Iraq the "central front" in the war on terrorism and to continue to shirk the war in Afghanistan.

That sells Petraeus short and ignores the reality that the war in Afghanistan will not be won or lost in Afghanistan alone. It must also be won inside Pakistan, where things go from bad to worse for U.S. policy, which has been a set of forlorn wishes that seem to boomerang.

President Pervez Musharraf, after a breathtaking exercise in compulsively and systematically destroying his own rule, sits by silently while a civilian-led, democratically elected government takes charge in Islamabad and narrows U.S. options.

Continued . . .
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