Tales from the Trail

Holbrooke: No “dysfunction” on U.S. Afghan Team

 Barack Obama’s team running the Afghan war has its issues — but is it dysfunctional? No, sir, according to Richard Holbrooke.

” I have worked in every Democratic administration since the Kennedy administration, and I know dysfunctionality when I see it,” Holbrooke, the administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the PBS NewsHour program.

” There are always personal differences and ambitions, but this is just not true. It’s not a dysfunctional relationship.”

Holbrooke’s interview with anchor Gwen Ifill came after a rough couple of weeks for Washington’s Afghan policy planners. Obama sacked his top commander in the region, General Stanley McChrystal, after the bombshell Rolling Stone article which included disparaging comments from McChrystal’s team about civilian directors of the war effort — Holbrooke included.  And McChrystal’s replacement, General David Petraeus, took over with a warning that there would be no swift turnaround after nine years of war.

Holbrooke said he was appalled by the McChrystal fiasco, but didn’t take it personally. He also said he wasn’t holding any grudges against the general, who “went out of his way” to offer a personal apology.  “In fact, he woke me in the middle of the night to apologize,” Holbrooke said.

Clinton doesn’t blame Karzai for confusion over U.S. policy

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen by many as the Obama administration’s “good cop” when it comes to dealing with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leaving others to point fingers at his government over corruption, election fraud and other issues. AFGHANISTAN-USA/

On Thursday, she continued to show empathy for the embattled Afghan leader, telling senators she understood why Karzai was so confused about U.S. policy towards his war-torn country.

At a hearing on the new strategy in Afghanistan, which some say is doomed because of the weak Afghan government, Clinton said she didn’t blame anyone — least of all Karzai — for questioning past U.S. intentions.

Obama uses V-word in Afghan speech, and we don’t mean victory

President Barack Obama uttered it four times in his speech at West Point about the way forward in Afghanistan.

It was the V-word that is often linked with the Q-word that conjures up the ghost of a past war that still is a raw wound in the American psyche.

USA/Obama charged head-on to try and address one of the key fears for Americans about continued involvement in an overseas war by saying that Vietnam, often described as a quagmire, was not Afghanistan.

Obama: Not worrying about perceptions on Afghanistan

OBAMA/INTERVIEWAs President Barack Obama nears a decision on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, some experts say he should consider the signal his decision will send about his broader commitment to the war, which has grown increasingly unpopular at home.

The White House has been frustrated that its internal deliberations on the Afghanistan strategy have leaked into public view, something that Obama acknowledged on Monday in an interview with Reuters.

But will perceptions of the deliberations affect the decision itself?

In the view of some, Obama might risk sending a signal of a weakening commitment in Afghanistan were he to approve anything short of the 40,000 troop increase requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The First Draft: questions of fraud and hoax

If Afghanistan has a runoff election, how does that affect President Barack Obama’s decisions on a new Afghan strategy? Will it speed up his decision-making or hamper it?

The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission is close to a verdict in its investigation of Afghanistan’s August presidential election that has been marred by allegations of widespread fraud.

The Washington Post reports that a runoff is expected, citing officials familiar with the results as saying the investigation had already cut incumbent President Hamid Karzai’s vote tally to about 47 percent.

Do wars and transparency mix?

President Barack Obama says he wants to have the most transparent administration ever.

But does that still hold when it comes to war? PORTUGAL/

There have been some subtle and not-so-subtle administration signals that perhaps General Stanley McChrystal publicly chatting about his views on Afghanistan strategy was not entirely welcome.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday urged advisers to offer their views to the president “candidly but privately” about a decision that “will be among the most important of his presidency.”