Image via WikipediaThe US is now stuck. First, the administration tried to distance itself from Karzai as well as signal it was looking for someone new. With Karzai cozying up to every warlord in Afghanistan, turning a blind eye to corruption (particularly his own), the US had burned the ships on the beach - as history has shown, a very unwise tactic. Now what? A congratulatory message from the US embassy in Kabul. "Looking forward to working with you", "victory for democracy" sniff, sniff sort of stuff.
Whatever happens next, the US needs to start rebuilding those burnt hulks and develop a strategy to get out. Karzai is unlikely to feel generous just now and attempts to pursue governance, anti-corruption and "civil society" reforms will slide off the mountains like so much melting snow.
As I said earlier, I suspect that the Obama administration will send between 10-14,000 more troops. McChrystal is certifiable if he thinks more will come. Obama will lean more toward the Biden plan of CI warfare than that of taking and holding territory. I hope.
Afghanistan is not a country and cannot be governed through a central authority. Some semblance of a deal needs to be made with the warlords. It would be nice if the Taliban can suffer severe losses and be marginalized because I believe that people who treat others, especially women, in a manner that might even be found obnoxious in 12th century, need to be boxed up somewhere so they don't do any more harm. However, it is likely the best that can happen now is a successful Biden approach. Any legitimacy in Kabul that a real election may have engendered is up in smoke.
The other element ofthe Afghanistan war is the impact on the foreign policy of the US and NATO members as a whole. NATO is now becoming less and less of a unified force. The US is tied down in Afghanistan and still has 120,000 troops in Iraq. In the meantime, Iran is proving to be its normal self, expert at outwardly reasonable delay and obfuscation while risking that Israel may suddenly tire of the game and throw its weight around. This could drag the US into another Asian land war and would undoubtadly set of a naval conflict in the Arabian Gulf. Something it cannot afford either militarily or financially. Something Russia knows very well.
The mess that the previous administration of Cheney/Bush dumped on the future is now pretty clear. Bush looked into Putin's eyes and "saw his soul". Really. How sweet. Jerk.
Well, that soul has now breached the borders of another country and remained; threatens Ukraine with a similar loss of Crimea (to which it has gleefully handed out Russian passports); cajoles Germany with the carrot of energy dependence to its view of Eastern Europe as within its sphere; crushes any degree of press and individual rights at home; revises its nuclear strategy to include a first strike; and, begins a diplomatic round of ally hunting in South America. All of this is within Russia's rights. Just like the Soviet Union (except for the first strike doctine) which it is more than a little beginning to resemble. None of these moves should go unanswered or uncountered because of Afghanistan. Understand, Russia wants the US tied down while it completes its circuit. The US, while it remains in that position, has very few alternatives.
If Russia were to turn on Iran today, there would be a deal. Iranians are not stupid and they know they have Russia at their back. China would veto sanctions as well - but the Russians will sell them military equipment. Obama will not succeed with Iran until he succeeds in beginning the disentaglement from Afghanistan and completes it in Iraq.
He will not succeed in moving anything forward between Israel and the Palestinians while Iraq and Afghanistan are lead weights on new policy development.
He will not be able to assist Pakistan deal with the terrorist wave of 12th century Luddite Taliban extremists that are tearing the Pakistan state to shreds.
The costs of these two wars has been and is draining the US treasury and making the dollar weaker every day - leaving the US open to a type of effective diplomacy at which the Chinese excel - and the US does not.
NATO is losing its center of gravity and a Germany that sees fit to sell the freedom of other countries for comfort and energy, can bring its operations to a halt.
There should be no mistake. The gross, self-centered, bloody arrogance and greed that engulfed the US for 8 years under the Republicans has been dumped on this new administration to come full circle both domestically and internationally. An exit strategy for Afghanistan based on the Biden plan will be a hit on US prestige. The right wing extremists that have now taken over the Republicans and give the Taliban a run for their money will howl because they are very willing to watch other people die but won't volunteer while there is still time to do so (unlike the Taliban). So what. They would howl either way because they only hate being out of power. The country means nothing.
So this administration now is forced to show the world that it knows how to deal with Afghanistan. The non-plan of the snarling Cheney world view of blood-letting has turned into a morass.