Tales from the Trail

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.

Invoking Vietnam is usually avoided when trying to make the case for war. But apparently Obama believed saying it out loud would help convince the American public of the need to send 30,000 more troops to a war that has lasted eight years.

Obama addressed critics who suggest Afghanistan is another Vietnam and that the United States should cut its losses and rapidly withdraw. “I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history,” he said.

Reasoning with the Taliban

AFGHANISTAN/OBAMAIn the past few weeks, as President Barack Obama closes in on a decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan, a couple of alluring ideas have resurfaced in Washington.

The first is that talks with the Taliban, or with members of the fundamentalist Islamist movement, might be worth pursuing more agressively, to advance the day that U.S. troops could begin to leave.

The second is the suggestion the Taliban in Afghanistan might be willing to sever its ties to al Qaeda, or that growing Taliban influence there may not directly threaten the United States.