Friday Et Cetera
Just to clarify my position from yesterday, I do fundamentally disagree with Rory Stewart’s position of a minimalist presence in Afghanistan. I think that withdrawing the force ISAF currently possesses in Afghanistan would be a remarkably devastating move, not only for American security but also for the Afghan people. Downsizing, too, would have the same effect.
But I do think that Stewart has a point when he brings up the fate of Afghan civilians, those not associated with the Taliban or with al-Qaeda, and the importance of addressing the basic human needs of the population. Doing so–insuring food, potable water, jobs, basic security–is the first of a long series of steps to instituting an infrastructure that can become self-sustaining. I think Stewart is wrong in believing that drawing down the troop numbers will have a sustaining effect on the people; I do think that the United States has made and must continue to make a commitment to the security of the Afghan state, for its own sake and the sake of national security. But I’m interested in Richard Holbrooke’s intention to expand the breadth of US civilian work in the country, and I firmly believe that will have as or more significant an impact on the needs and infrastructure of Afghanistan as ISAF presence will.
I mention this only because while I do appreciate Stewart’s point of view and his expertise in Afghanistan, I also disagree with him, and I don’t think I made that very clear.