Where have I heard this before?

Stephen Walt at ForeignPolicy.Com makes_a_point on Afghanistan I’ve been constantly repeating:

In fact, we have only one vital national interest in Afghanistan: to prevent Afghan territory from being used as a safe haven for groups plotting attacks on American soil or on Americans abroad, as al Qaeda did prior to September 11. It might be nice to achieve some other goals too (such as economic development, better conditions for women, greater politicalparticipation, etc.), but these goals are neither vital to U.S. nationalsecurity nor central to the future of freedom in the United States or elsewhere. Deep down, we don’t (or shouldn’t) care very much who governs in Afghanistan, provided they don’t let anti-American bad guysuse their territory to attack us. As I recall, President Bush was even willing to let the Taliban stay in power in 2001 if they had been willing to hand us Osama and his henchmen. 

In fact, I would argue that a Taliban dictatorship is in US interests.  I can hear a collective “Rob, stop doing drugs” from the readership but hear me out.  There’s two reasons:

1) Having some form of centralized rule is critical to the sole US interest of preventing Afghanistan from turning into an Al-Qaeda launching pad
2) The Taliban is the Afghani group most capable of achieving some semblance of centralized rule

“But wait,”  some might say in response, “they are terrorists.”  Actually, they aren’t: The Taliban has  never employed terrorism against the US, or, for that matter,  targeted it in any way. 

 Sayyid Imam’s latest “revisions”  (read more about him here) were mostly 100 pages of worthless rambling but in his desire to embarrass Al- Qaeda, he did reveal some interesting CT titbits.    According to Imam, Bin Laden deceived Mullah Omar regarding 9/11, violating a pledge he made not to overrule Omar’s authority when it came to plotting attacks against the US (which Omar opposed).  When some members of AQ heard that Bin Laden was plotting a big attack inside US territory (9/11) they got mad and reminded him of the pledge.    Bin Laden then pulled a Jihadi Bill Clinton and said “no, no, we pledged allegiance to Mullar Omar inside Afghanistan.  We can do whatever we want outside Afghanistan.”   From Al-Masri Al-Youm newspaper, 11/21/08:

بدأ الإعداد لتفجيرات ١١/٩/٢٠٠١م قبل سنتين من وقوعها، ولما اكتملت التجهيزات أعلن ابن لادن فى ٦/٢٠٠١ أن هناك عملية كبرى ستقع ضد أمريكا بدون تحديد لمكانها أو تفاصيلها. فاعترض عليه بعض أتباعه خاصة من لجنته الشرعية بأن أميرهم الملا محمد عُمر نهاهم عن الصدام مع أمريكا وأنه لا طاقة له ولا لدولته بذلك، فاخترع ابن لادن هذه البدعة «محلية الإمارة» للرد على منتقديه من أتباعه، وقال لهم إن محمد عُمر أميرهم داخل أفغانستان ولا دخل له بما يفعلونه خارجها. والرد على ذلك من وجوه:

إن الأمر الشرعى بطاعة الأمير لم يقيد ذلك بمكان «داخل أو خارج» كقول الله تعالى: {… أطيعوا الله وأطيعوا الرسول وأولى الأمر منكم…} «النساء: ٥٩»، وكقول النبى [: «من أطاعنى فقد أطاع الله، ومن عصانى فقد عصى الله، ومن يطع الأمير فقد أطاعنى، ومن يعص الأمير فقد عصانى» متفق عليه.

وكذلك نصوص الوعيد لمن عصى أميره غير مقيدة بمكان، كقول النبى [: «من خلع يدًا من طاعة لقى الله يوم القيامة ولا حُجة له» رواه مسلم.

Imam is hardly an objective observer of Al-Qaeda but this account is consistent with what I read in the Arabic press and the people I’ve talked to. 

So what’s the moral of the story?  The Taliban did not know about 9/11 beforehand and would have opposed it if they knew.  They have never committed acts of terrorism against the US and almost certainly never will — these are a bunch of  unsophisticated, illiterate  hicks from the countryside and from a CT perspective, these guys wouldn’t ever get past Kabul airport.    All of this supports my argument that the Taliban is not a natural enemy of the US; whether they are in power is not important to the US, provided they don’t give Al-Qaeda free reign to plot attacks against the US, which they really haven’t done before.

Is the “Good War” Worth Fighting?

Former British FSO Rory Stewart has an excellent op-ed in the NY Times framing the coming challenge in Afghanistan.  He starts off by making a critical point: Do we actually have to “win” in Afghanistan?  Or why do we need to “beat” the Taliban to win?  Why can’t winning be defined as something like “not doing anything dumb” and leaving Afghanistan without making things worse?  Would US National Security be damaged if the US simply withdrew from Afghanistan? 

AFGHANISTAN does not matter as much as Barack Obama thinks.   Terrorism is not the key strategic threat facing the United States. America, Britain and our allies have not created a positive stable environment in the Middle East. We have no clear strategy for dealing with China. The financial crisis is a more immediate threat to United States power and to other states; environmental catastrophe is more dangerous for the world. And even from the perspective of terrorism, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are more lethal.

Yes, Afganistan deserves more attention,  but “attention” doesn’t have to be military.  I agree with the author that sending more troops would probably lead to disaster and only make things more difficult. 

President-elect Obama’s emphasis on Afghanistan and his desire to send more troops and money there is misguided. Overestimating its importance distracts us from higher priorities, creates an unhealthy dynamic with the government of Afghanistan and endangers the one thing it needs — the stability that might come from a patient, limited, long-term relationship with the international community.

More troops have brought military victories but they have not been able to eliminate the Taliban. They have also had a negative political impact in the conservative and nationalistic communities of the Pashtun south and allowed Taliban propaganda to portray us as a foreign military occupation. In Helmand Province, troop numbers have increased to nearly 10,000 today from just 2,000 in 2004. But no inhabitant of Helmand would say things have improved in the last four years. Mr. Obama believes that sending even more troops and money will now bring “victory” in Afghanistan. Some of this may be politically driven: a pretense of future benefits appears better than admitting a loss; and because lives are involved, no one wants to write off sunk costs. Nevertheless, these increases are not just wasteful, they are counterproductive.

The only way that sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good idea is if it is some kind of way to threaten the Taliban into making more concessions.  The Taliban may be “winning” but they also can not hold out forever.  The key to getting out of Afghanistan with any kind of desirable result is pushing the Taliban to seperate from Al-Qaeda and enter the Afghani political arena.  Yes, as many people have mentioned, this would not be easy as the Taliban is not a unified movement.  Still, there really is no other possible option.

Was it possible in 2001? UPDATED

UPDATE: Asharq Al Awsat just posted a translation. 

Amr Khan, a former Pakistani cricket star and current leader of the Pakistani Justice Party has a long interview in today’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.  Khan harshly criticizes US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and blames former President Musharef for the country’s current impasse (though he once supported him).  There’s lots of good stuff in the interview which those who know Arabic should read.   One point discussed was whether the Taliban is capable of being split from Al-Qaeda: 

As part of a larger critique of US policy in Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Khan says the following:

If AQ was  actually responsible for 9/11, then it is the only force that has the ability to attack Western capitals (voicing typical skepticism seen in Arab press that AQ actually had tactical ability to carry out 9/11) .  But why then, the attack on the Taliban?  Why didn’t they take their time to distinguish between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which was possible?”……..attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 only turned the population against the US…. united the Pashtuns against the US…

The Interviewer then pushed Khan on his point about the plausibility of dividing AQ from the Taliban (in 01)

Q:  Allow me to return to your point about dividing Al-Qaeda from the Taliban.  In theory, its easy to say this but in practice was this really possible? How would you have done it?

A:  First, , all the parties opposed to the Taliban gathered in Peshawar before the war and tried to convince the Americans to not attack the Taliban, saying that the movement was weak internally and its energy was dispensing.  They requested more time to try and change the regime peacefully.

Second, the Shura Council (the Taliban Parliament) had sent messages to the movement requesting Bin Laden leave the country before the war

Three,  what the Taliban said was that they were prepared to turn over Bin Laden or turn him over to a Muslim country, they never rejected this, in fact there were negotiations.  The Americans say that they didn’t have any other options but this is not true. They had several in front of them. 

There was no discussion of current efforts to divide AQ and the Taliban.

Is the Taliban About to Turn Zawahiri Over to the US?

Dia Rashwan, the noted Egyptian Al-Qaeda analyst, said at a recent conference in Cairo that the Afghan government is negotiating with the Taliban.   The potential deal:  The Taliban turns over Ayman Zawahiri in exchange for Taliban participation in the political process and an end to the war with the government.   The negotiations are being carried out under Saudi oversight and the US wants them to end before Bush leaves giving him a victory in the war against terrorism.  

Source here is  Al-Dostor (10/24, p4) which  apparently does not get the concept of putting today’s news on the net the day it comes out.  IslamOnline also has good coverage of the conference and notes that Rashwan could see the Taliban sacrificing Zawahiri but not Bin Laden because that relationship is deeper: 

 ويقول رشوان: باعتقادي أن طالبان من الممكن أن تضحي بالظواهري لكنها لن تضحي ببن لادن لعلاقته الوثيقة بطالبان

As for the source- remember this is not AHMED CAFE CHAIR. Dia Rashwan is one of the most respected Arab commentators on Al-Qaeda and is often cited by Western researchers. 

Commentary
If the US were able to pull this off, it would be a tremendous coup and should take the deal in a second. 

As I’ve said all along, the Taliban is not_a_natural_and_permanent enemy of the US.  They are an unsophisticated group of local Afghan Islamists who care first and foremost about local Afghan rule.  Afghanistan is only a threat to the US when it is ungoverned, allowing Arab fanatics (Al-Qaeda) to use it as a base to plan operations against the US.  Mullah Omar was willing to discuss turning over Bin Laden in the late 1990s.  Only after 9/11 did the Taliban become_an_enemy of the US.   A Taliban that turns on Al-Qaeda is not an enemy of the US, and if they are the only force that is capable of effectively governing Afghanistan than so be it. 

Secondly, to the extent that AQ is a  central organization (which is doubtful)  Zawahiri and not Bin Laden is the guy that makes things happen. So if he were turned over it would be a serious blow to the organization’s operational capacity, not to mention a major PR victory for the US.

Does Christopher Hitchens Read Media Shack?

Two days ago I posted  that the US should buy and burn all the Opium in Afghanistan because trying to stop Afghan farmers from growing their only crop drives them straight into the insurgency.  Yesterday, Christopher Hitchens said the same thing:

This is why it is peculiar of us, if not bizarre and quasi-suicidal, to insist that its main economic lifeblood continues to be wholly controlled by our enemies…And, unsurprisingly, UNODC also reports that the vast bulk of the revenue from this astonishing harvest goes directly to the Taliban or to local warlords and mullahs. Meanwhile, in the guise of liberators NATO forces appear and tell the Afghan villagers that they intend to burn their only crop. And the American embassy is only restrained by the Afghan government from pursuing a policy of actually spraying this same crop from the air! In other words, the discredited fantasy of Richard Nixon’s so-called “War on Drugs” is the dogma on which we are prepared to gamble and lose the country that gave birth to the Taliban and hospitality to al-Qaida.

SO WHAT IS THE BETTER SOLUTION?

While in the short term, hard-pressed Afghan farmers should be allowed to sell their opium to the government rather than only to the many criminal elements that continue to infest it or to the Taliban. We don’t have to smoke the stuff once we have purchased it: It can be burned or thrown away or perhaps more profitably used to manufacture the painkillers of which the United States currently suffers a shortage. (As it is, we allow Turkey to cultivate opium poppy fields for precisely this purpose.) Why not give Afghanistan the contract instead? At one stroke, we help fill its coffers and empty the main war chest of our foes while altering the “hearts-and-minds” balance that has been tipping away from us.

WILL THAT FLY IN WASHINGTON?

I happen to know that this option has been discussed at quite high levels in Afghanistan itself, and I leave you to guess at the sort of political constraints that prevent it from being discussed intelligently in public in the United States. But if we ever have to have the melancholy inquest on how we “lost” a country we had once liberated, this will be one of the places where the conversation will have to start.

 I couldn’t agree more.  Hitchens is  right on the last point but I don’t see why this couldn’t be carried out covertly.  And just to be clear I had no idea that Hitchens would be writing this on October 6 when I posted the same thing on October 5th.   In fact,  I have long argued (and have a paper trail to prove it) that the drug trade everywhere could  easily be disrupted and destroyed by the US government if it wanted to disrupt the economic supply and demand chain.   Major High-Five to Friday_in-Cairo for passing this along.

Abdel Bari Atwan’s 9/11 Report

……. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London based Al-Quds Al-Qarabi,  wrote a long analytical piece analyzing the success or failure of the US war on terror.  Atwan’s views are very worth listening to for several reasons. 
1) As editor of Al-Quds he has major connections to people who are very close to the events, both from the sides that are favorable to the US and those that are opposed.  What I am saying is that he has acccess to the views/analysis of people from the Taliban/  that no Americans are going to get or even try to get.  So his analysis needs to be paid special attention.
2) He has major connections with the Islamist movements and has interviewed Bin Laden.  He also  wrote a very good book on Al-Qaeda.  
3) His paper is considered independent and is more intellectually consistent than bigger papers such as Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat. 

4) Also,  a couple weeks ago I had a  post  asking the question Why is the Taliban the enemy?  Some disagreed with my argument that the Taliban is not a natural enemy of the US so it could be manipulated into turning against Al-Qaeda.   Atwan’s  analysis supports my point.  For all of these reasons, I have translated the article.  I am not a translator, but the following can be considered a reliable (in the sense of capturing all the ideas)  chronological translation of the article:

Bootleg Translation of Atwan’s Article

Two years ago, Bush, and his ally Blair announced they they had discovered an Al-Qaeda plot to blow up a number of American airplanes using liquid bombs.  The British government led by Tony Blair, ally of Bush in the war against terror, arrested about 30 Britains from Muslim backgrounds, and took measures to stop liquids from going on planes, causing unprecedented confusion, as this came at the peak of summer travel season in Europe. 

At that same time, we at Al-Quds doubted or were speptical of this alleged conspiracy,  which should be seen in the framework of  US and European Islamophobia ,  and is used to justify Blair and Bush’s bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We also said that these two men, who are known for their religious fervor and hostility to Islam employed a politics of fear, with this airplane conspiracy being only the most prominent example.  Just yesterday an independent trial court rejected this conspiracy and acquited the accused in a trial that lasted for two years, costing the tax payers upwards of 50 million British pounds.

The trial revealed that these accused had never bought a ticket even gotten near a British airport… But journalistic reports confirmed that President Bush and his VP wanted some kind of victor to use in order to help Republican candidates in the 2006 Congressional Elections, and they found in this alleged/claimed conspiracy a priceless opportunity. 

Fabricating evidence is not something unusual for Bush or Blair.  Weren’t they the ones who fabricated evidence of a relationship between Saddam and Al-Qaeda? Or of Iraq’s relationship to uranium in Niger in order to justify their aggression against it?  Isn’t Tony Blair, now the Middle East peace envoy, the one who went before Parliament in dramatic form with the dossier that said they had reliable information that Saddam Hussein had WMD that he was capable of using against British and US forces in less than 45 minutes?

Noone denies the presence of Islamist extremist organizations which use terrorism and violence as a measure to fight against the West, reacting to its wars in Iraq and as revenge for its victims, like what happened in the London attacks three years ago. But perhaps we can also say that the threat from these groups is exaggerated by Security forces and popular newspapers to justify security measures and strong laws against Muslim communities in the West, portraying them as the source of all evil.

Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which were the beginning of the war against terrorism and the occupation of Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the death of 1.5 million Muslims and Arabs, as well as the death of 4k American soldiers, and the loss of as much as 5 trillion dollars.  Perhaps the best way to measure its succes or failure is to look at what President Bush himself were the original goals:  the arrest or capture of the two leaders Mullah Omar and Bin Laden and the complete destruction of their two organizations, and to make the world safer and more peaceful.

The war on terror toppled the regimes of the Taliban and after the Saddam and the occupation of the two countries.  But it did not succeed in capturing either leader and did not make the world safer, but actually made it worse. Furthermore, the two movements have returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan and now have  control over most of the first and half of the second, and run training camps for new volunteers who numbers in the thousands.

The Al-Qaeda organization might have been exposed to a major setback in Iraq because of the Awakening Forces ( paid off by the Americans) and because of their takfir politics and emphasis on setting up an Islamic state, but perhaps this setback is just temporary, because the vast majority of its members of Iraqi, we have to consider how Tanzim Al-Qaeda was able to return  to Afghanistan five years after the destruction of its base at Tora Bora.   The theory of those who participated in the Awakening was at its roots, based on distinction between the Far Enemy (the US) and the Near Enemy (Iran) and the necessity of focusing on fighting the near enemy , considering it the greater danger, even if that means allying with the Far Enemy.  But this theory began to crumble after the Malaki government forced the US to stop funding the Awakening forces, and brought them under its influence and control.   This means that the 100k who fought with Al-Qaeda, then turned against them, now finds themselves as Pariahs and outcasts after they were used to establish the Occupation, but then were thrown in the trash like a used napkin

President Bush wants to use the Iraq Awakening model in Aghanisan, but despite its partial and temporary success there, it is difficult to see it succeed in Afg. not because the time is late but because the Taliban has imposed its control over Afghanistan and the American defeat has become certain.   US forces commit massacres and heavy handed actions on a daily basis, knowing that their program has failed and the the Taliban-Al-Qaeda victory is inevitable.  They resort to heavy handed aerial attacks but the leadership forgets that airborne bombardment can not settle the issue on the ground.  On the other hand, increasing the number of land forces (now at 37k) will only give the Taliban more targets to attack

America’s problem is bigger than Afghanistan, which is an unwinnable war.  The bigger problem is in Pakistianwhich is becoming quickly a failed state, which will inevitably fall in the hands of radical Islamistgroups or a military dictatorship with little popularity.  Notice how  71% of Pakistanis are opposed to cooperation with the US war on terror and 51% oppose the war against the Taliban according to a poll done last July by Gallup.   The Taliban in Pakistan constitute a greater threat than the Taliban in Afghanistan because it posses 80k fighters ready to due in suicide operations against Western forces.  American attacks against Pakistani tribal regions will only increase the popularity of extremist groups in Pakistan as these attacks are considered a violation of Pakistani national dignity and increase extremism.   And these suicide operations were unknown in Pak and Afg before 9/11 but now they are something normal thanks to the presence of AQ experts who first learned the trade in Iraq.

The first leader the new President Zardari met was  Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, which he did to confirm to Washington that he will stay a close ally in the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  But this man, who has spent 11 of the last 20 years in in jail on corruption charges is not going to stay in power long, and US support for him will only increase the power of the Taliban and AQ. It  certainly  will not weaken it.   The US administration might find cooperation from the high level officers in the Pakistani army, but the big problem is that the vast majority of lower level officers and soldiers have sheltered hostility, and this is what explains Al-Qaeda and Taliban penetration in the Presidential Security and the three attempted assassination attempts against Musharaf.

Perhaps the failure of the war on terror will be seen in upcoming months for several reasons:  One has to do with the reemergence of Russia and a new Cold War after the Georgia fighting and Moscow’s desire to return to Afghanistan to get revenge against the Americans for kicking them out previously, and Al-Qaeda’s success in making a return to Afghanistan, and rejuvenated Mujaheed from around the world, and maybe see a return of them going to Europe and maybe even America, as Afghanistan is surrounded by countries who are hostile with America which is not the case with Iraq.

Al-Qaeda has returned to Aghanistan in light of its alliance with the Taliban, “after the the West became a mutal enemy of both movements. But the Taliban was not an enemy of America and the West before the events of 9/11.  There was a wing, and it was the dominant wing requesting that Al-Qaedabe kicked out of Afghanistan. Now all the wings are united behind Al-Qaeda  against Washington and the West.”  Here is the exact quote: 

 وعادت الى افغانستان بيئتها وحاضنتها الطبيعية، وفي ظل تحالف اقوى مع طالبان، بعد ان اصبح الغرب عدوا مشتركا للطرفين، فطالبان لم تكن تعادي امريكا والغرب قبل احداث الحادي عشر من ايلول (سبتمبر)، وكان هناك جناح وهو الغالب فيها يطالب بطرد القاعدة من البلاد، الآن توحدت الأجنحة خلف ‘القاعدة’ وضد واشنطن والغرب

The upcoming days for America are going ot be tough, it had a golden opportunity to win over Muslim hearts and minds who sympathized with them following 9/11. It could have used this to try and settle the Isr-Pal conflict and support democracy and human rights but unfortunately it did the opposite of this completely.  By doing what it did, it just provided more havens for terrorism.

Commentary
There are a number of points worth commenting on.  But for now I will simply return to my original argument- there is no reason that Taliban should be considered a natural enemy of the US.  They were not.  Lumping them together, when they could have sided with the US in kicking the  Al-Qaeda movement which was a threat to their local rule, was a major mistake.   The US had a golden opp that was blown, but I still see no reason why it couldn’t work.  Yes, it would entail admitting that seven years of effort was a complete waste, but it would probaly be more practical than staying and fighting the Taliban.

Why Is the Taliban the Enemy?

I don’t claim to have deep knowledge about Afghanistan, but it seems to him that the current US approach is destined for failure.   Over the past year violence has gotten worse and the US continues to lose soldiers and waste money there.  But here’s my question:  Why is it important that we destroy the Taliban?  Why is the Taliban being treated as an inevitable enemy that has to be eliminated in order for security to be achieved? 

Afghanistan becomes a security threat to the US and its allies when it serves as  a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda types to use as a base to plan and launch attacks against the US.  For what other reason is Afghanistan important to the US?  The situation that existed in Afghanistan before 9/11 was clearly a security threat to the US as Al-Qaeda could do whatever they wanted, and as we well know, they did just that.  But why is the Taliban being lumped together with Al-Qaeda as an implaccable enemy that must be destroyed? 

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are not natural allies.  Al-Qaeda are Arabs from a far away land, who speak a different language and are seen by the locals as being arrogant and having a sense of superiority.  Although there is a shared religion, Islam, in some ways, Afghani Arabs are seen by the locals as foreign occupiers just as much as the Americans.  In the mid-late 1990s, Mullah Omar made a calculated decision that the money and material equipment that Bin Laden could supply made it worth the political and diplomatic costs that such a decision would cost.  Keep in mind, since the US was barely intersted in Al-Qaeda or Afghanistan at this point the price was very low.   But even at this pre-9/11 point, Omar seems to have had some doubts about the wisdom of such a decision.  According  to Lawrence_Wright, Mullah Omar made a verbal commitment to Prince Turki Al-Faisal to turn Bin Laden over to Saudi Arabia, which he later reneged on but this shows how this was an alliance of convenience.  Clearly, after 9/11 the Taliban had to be thinking the cost-benefit equation.  With the US suddenly attacking Afghanistan it became alot more costly.  And the Taliban’s leaders know this. 

The Taliban is a local movement which is stricly limited to Afghanistan whereas Al-Qaeda is a global movement.  Their interests clearly conflict.   Furthermore, there is a strong sense, both within the Taliban and within various Islamist movements, that the Taliban had founded the first modern truly Islamic state, but all of these gains were wiped out by Bin Laden’s recklessness.   Al-Qaeda’s attacks on the US, especially 9/11, are considered strategically idiotic by many within the Islamists movements.   If given a second chance in Afghanistan, they would certainly be more careful about who they let into their country.   And from a counter-terrorism perspective, the Taliban’s fighters are local, uneducated tribesman who know little if anything about what goes on outside their borders.  Most could probaly not locate Afghanistan on a map.  They have neither the language skills or worldliness to make it past Kabul airport.  I am  not aware of one member of the Taliban or even an Afghani who has ever participated in a terrorist attack against the US. 

And does their political program for Afghanistan necessarily conflict with US interests?  If the Taliban wants to run an 8th century theocracy,  why does the US care, as long as they don’t also allow Al-Qaeda types to enter their country?   Certainly they are probaly a better bet to keep the country stable than the US-trained Afghan army.  I see no reason why some kind of unwritten understanding can be reached between the US and the Taliban:  We’ll leave you to govern Afghanistan as you wish, as long as you do everything possible to keep all Arab Al-Qaeda types out.  Oh and the second we find that you’re not doing that, we’ll attack.  Sure, this is an unlikely plan because it would mean selling out the pro-US Afghan government.  But is that such a bad thing?  Are we going to keep spending billions of dollars and have hundreds of soldiers die to fight against an enemy that doesn’t necessarily have to be our enemy?  Or are we going to adopt a better, albeit hard-core realist plan, that perhaps better takes into account local realities?