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from The Great Debate:

New Afghan war over U.S. troop levels

The stubborn war in Afghanistan, which has spanned a decade and cost more than 2,000 American lives, has now faded to one key question: How many U.S. troops will remain after 2014?

This is the issue that will likely occupy President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai when they meet at the White House on Friday. Officials are already batting numbers about, ranging from zero to 20,000.

But how many Americans are still paying attention?

For many voters, and those they elect, the war is over. Only brief and irritating interruptions, like the scandal the led to the resignation of CIA director and retired General David Petraeus, serve to remind the public that the United States remains at war. In the presidential campaign, candidates in both parties mentioned the war only in passing. GOP nominee Mitt Romney didn’t even say “Afghanistan” in his convention acceptance speech, while Obama and Vice President Joe Biden referred to the war only to discuss its “responsible end.”

For those who served in Afghanistan on the diplomatic or military front and believe in continued U.S. engagement, the battle is now against an opponent for whom they have few weapons: U.S. public apathy.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Chickens come home to roost

Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost, to quote the title page of Robert Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama, published in 1810.

foreclosures3The controversy over the handling of home foreclosures came back to hurt the nation’s biggest banks with a vengeance today. There may not be a lot of sympathy on Wall Street for people who missed their mortgage payments, but then again, there probably isn’t much sympathy on Main Street for the practice of “robo-signers” to approve home seizures, especially since banks probably shouldn’t have extended many of the defaulting mortgages in the first place.

from Tales from the Trail:

Karzai appeals to U.S. taxpayers

karzai1Afghan President Hamid Karzai is taking a page from the playbook of American politicians campaigning for public office: talk to the taxpayers.

Karzai is on a campaign to give the boot to tens of thousands of foreign private security guards working in Afghanistan. He's already put the U.S. government on notice that the private security firms operating in his country will be disbanded within four months.

from Tales from the Trail:

Iraq … It’s not like Charlie Wilson’s war

Ambassador Chris Hill, the retiring U.S. envoy to Baghdad, is confident the Iraq war will not end up like Charlie Wilson's war.

Wilson, the late Texas congressman, was a driving force behind the U.S. funding of mujahideen rebels who fought a Soviet occupation force in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, U.S. attention shifted elsewhere and Afghanistan slipped into civil war.
IRAQ/
Not a likely scenario in Iraq, Hill told a State Department briefing Tuesday.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra

wikileakIn many ways the documents released by WikiLeaks last night merely underscored the bleak assessment of the Afghan war which General Stanley McChrystal issued last August.

At the time McChrystal warned the overall situation was “deteriorating”, complained of “under-resourcing” and called for not just more resources but a “fundamentally new approach” from NATO forces if failure were to be avoided.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama delivers checkmate by moving generals

President Barack Obama managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

In a surprise move, he chose superstar General David Petraeus to replace General Stanley McChrystal, whose team had badmouthed just about every top civilian adviser to Obama on Afghanistan in a Rolling Stone magazine article. AFGHANISTAN/

And with that one decision he managed to wipe away any impression that as commander-in-chief he would allow insubordination, and he preempted any criticism that he would allow the war in Afghanistan to be without competent leadership for reasons of politics and vanity.

from The Great Debate:

America’s long, long Afghan war

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate--Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own--

Twenty years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan after a disastrous war that lasted nine years, seven weeks and three days. Barring military and political miracles, the United States will stay longer in Afghanistan than the Soviets did. Considerably longer.

Present U.S. plans to reinforce troops fighting a war that is, by most accounts, going badly, provide for up to 30,000 additional soldiers to be deployed over the next 12 to 18 months. By that time, the U.S. presence will almost have matched the Soviets' stay and will exceed it by the end of 2010.

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