What struck me (Trudy Rubin) most about my conversation with Petraeus was the complexity of the AfPak project he described.
Petraeus, along with his military and civilian bosses and counterparts, must work with Pakistan, where a weak civilian government and conflicted military are flailing at efforts to push militants back. They must avoid making new enemies in either country through air or missile strikes that kill civilians along with militants. (Petraeus is keenly aware of this problem.)
They must coordinate military and civilian reconstruction aid and try to strengthen Afghan and Pakistani governance – so locals will resist the jihadis’ call. And they must try to facilitate behind-the-scenes rapprochement between New Delhi and Islamabad in order to persuade the Pakistani army to focus less on India and more on the Afghan border.
Finally, and key, they must persuade Pakistanis and Afghans that the United States is in this for the long haul. Already, speculation is rampant in both countries that Obama is seeking a speedy exit before 2010 midterm elections. If the Pakistani army believes this, it won’t cut ties with its old Afghan Taliban friends, who, it will assume, will soon be in power.
If such speculation is wrong, Petraeus may be called upon again to help convince the American public of the need to stay the course until the Afghan army gets stronger.
(Oh, the irony of it all!)
And until Pakistan‘s army becomes willing, and able, to fight the enemy within.
He will no doubt keep repeating the mantra he brought up at the end of our talk: “It is important to come back to why we are in Afghanistan. This is the place where sanctuaries for transnational extremists would again be established if the Taliban returned.
“There is a vital national security interest in helping Afghans to get it right in an Afghan context. This is everyone’s interest because the threat has touched so many in the world.”
Then Sen. Barack Obama listens as Gen. David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him and Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel an aerial tour of the city. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Lorie Jewell/Multi-National Forces Iraq Public Affairs via Getty Images)
Trudy Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be in Afghanistan and Pakistan from Saturday to May 6, and will report regularly at
April 07, 2009
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing Congressman Rooney questions General David Petraeus about the new strategy in Afghanistan.