We believe in the perfectibility of species. If given help.(Except, given just over a century of experience, the greys, since they're unrepentant capitalist opportunists eating us out of house and home and they just won't listen.)(And humans, probably, since they have shown a nasty atavistic tendency over the last few millennia.)However, with guidance and the inculcation of the proper revolutionary attitudes, we believe there may still be hope for both of them. And at least in the case of the human species there will always be a large amount of nuts available.Hasta la victoria siempre!
(Click on above to listen in solidarity with our Italian cousins to the rousing anthem.)
"Ambassador" Elkenberry is also ex-General Elkenberry, who promoted the kind of "afghanisation" people are writing about as an exit strategy when he was boss there for a couple of years back in 2002/3 and reiterated it in a public [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] memorandum (isn't this an odd thing for either a general or an ambassador to do?) six months ago. He has, obviously, a vested interest in seeing 'his' policy being seen to succeed, if not for his own reputation, for his memoirs.
The end strategies of both McChrystal and Elkenberry are not really that dissimilar in reality; but they appear to disagree about the numbers of non-Afghan troops to do it.
The history of this intervention seems to be littered with as many battles between Generals and ex-Generals as there have been with the Taleban. And it rather shows the folly of turning soldiers into diplomats.
I didn't pay too much attention to it, but I heard an interview with the NATO Sec Gen yesterday in which he appeared to be hinting that unless whatever comes out of this to-ing and fro-ing involves a much cleare notion of how some sort of viable society (jobs, education, health, functioning civil government that does not rely on armed miiltias, whether Taleban or other, subject to either whim or money) the other NATO countries are really no longer interested.
Of course, being a diplomat and not a General, he put it a little more diplomatically.
I also heard an interview with the Governor of Afghanistan's poorest province (and god knows that must be in dire straits) pleading for job creation, schools, clinics and hospitals. But he also said the US army had now withdrawn from the province (which borders the North West Territories, it's not some quiet patch where people can quietly settle down and grow apricots) and, though he didn't say it directly, left them with nothing. The result? An NGO also left; a young Afghani who lost his job with them and could find no other now commands a Taleban contingent which controls his village and its surrounding area.
That, in practical terms, doesn't sound much like the policies of either McChrystal or Elkenberry; so who on earth is deciding the overall political strategy for Afghanistan? Anybody?
(Or is the answer, after eight years, the Taleban again?)
This is dithering; I've though Obama is taking far too long to come to some decision over this, but I can see both US civil and military strategies and tactics are far from unified, and, apparently, are in a mess. So perhaps he should have had more than eight meetings about it.
He's soon off for another fortnight; more fine speeches. But fine words butter no parsnips, end no wars, shore up no civil societies, and I doubt in consequence if any members of his various audiences in the next fortnight are really going to be doing any more than listen politely, applaud, and wonder why he bothered to come. I, as many others around the world did, hoped for more. But the U-turn on Israeli settlements disillusioned many, not least the US's favourite Palestinian politician, and it's been taken as a harbinger of other abnegations of political and diplomatic responsibility or influence (but many suspect, again, not military) to come.
"Find your own way of getting out of the mess we've -- at least partially --created because we're bored now" is not a policy that reassures anyone in restless and troubled regions of the world.
(The URL deemed "unsuitable" by the BBC's outsourced moderation company Tempero, created by ex BBC staff via a revolving door at an opportune and subsequently advantageous time, was to this page on Politico.)
It seems I'm not quite alone. See the interview with David Kilcullen in Thursday's Guardian.