Thursday, January 18, 2007
ignorance is your disease, ignorance and apathy -- and you wonder why they burn your buildings down:
How to be fair about this? Bob Gates's press conference in Afghanistan underscores two truths: first, that despite having nearly 25,000 American troops in the country, the administration hasn't a clue what to do there; and second, there's no penalty for not knowing anything about Afghanistan for a defense secretary. To be fair, the guy's only been on the job for a month, it's his first visit, and there's about ten crises a day in the war that got his predecessor fired. And yet...

There's been a lot of progress in Afghanistan. For example, under the Taliban government, women were subject to arbitrary rules, roles, rules and punishment. Now 74 women serve in the Afghan Parliament, writing the laws that govern the society. Only 8 percent of Afghans used to have access to some form of health care; today some 80 percent do. So this is an important time to secure the gains of the past and to build on them in the future and continue strengthening this government and this country.

Come on! This is a 2002-vintage talking point. If there's nothing more recent to say that's good, it's time to worry.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you were at the border today -- you know, visiting base at the border today, officials here say that the number of border incidents in that border area have increased by more than 300 percent since an agreement in September by Pakistan with tribal leaders in North Waziristan.

How can you make any headway to breaking this insurgency without some change in policy by Pakistan?

SEC. GATES: Well, there's no question that there has been a significant increase. I don't know the exact amount, but a significant increase of attacks from across the border, particularly in North and South Waziristan, and it is a problem. By the same token, Pakistan is one of America's strongest allies in the war on terror, and we will continue working with the Pakistanis to see if there's a way that we can begin to reduce the violence coming from that side of the border.

If attacks in Iraq went up by 300 percent, Gates and all his subordinates would be fired; Bush would start drinking again; and the Democrats could nominate me in 2008 and win 35 states. A 300 percent spike in attacks is simply not something to be sanguine about. Gates was standing next to Hamid Karzai when he said this. Imagine if Karzai had said, "Wow, 3,000 Americans killed in Iraq. It is a problem. By the same token, the Association of Muslim Scholars and Moqtada al-Sadr are some of Afghanistan's strongest allies, and we'll continue working with them to see that we can begin to reduce the violence coming from that side of the world."

Gates told an Afghan reporter that he's "strongly inclined" to recommend an increase in troops for Afghanistan. Two questions. First, from where; and second, for what? If General Eikenberry turns out to be a Ricardo Sanchez-style military idiot, how would Gates know the difference? Troop levels are a means to an end. That end is decided by, among other people, the secretary of defense. Get on it, Bob.

--Spencer Ackerman
"First, from where; and second, for what? "

I say send in the Canadian mounties. In uniform. Don't tell me that awesome uniform wouldn't command respect, even from Mullah Omar himself.
Blogger Jon Hendry | 8:23 PM