Sunday, November 22, 2009

War Notes: November 22, 2009

The Pakistani government is publicly pleading with the United States not to escalate. In direct opposition to the McChrystal report, Pakistan is urging NATO forces to focus on the Pakistani border, rather than cities, where McChrystal is withdrawing most forces too. There is no doubt Pakistan is motivated by self-interest, but their relationship with the Afghan Taliban is complex, as the Pakistani government sponsored them for many years.

Some Pakistani officials tout this relationship as a reason to step in and bring the U.S and the Taliban to the negotiating table, with one noting, "I'm not for a moment suggesting that it's an easy task, but otherwise you will be fighting these people for the next hundred years." Other officials concede, however, that the Taliban has little incentive to negotiate at the moment.
In a related story, President Karzai is considering extending invitations to the third Loya Jirga to certain insurgents. The event is essentially a grand-scale community meeting, meant to foster peace and unity among the country's many factions. The first Jirga resulted in Karzai's appointment as interim leader, and the second ratified the Afghan constitution. The Taliban leadership has thus far categorically ruled out negotiating with a Karzai-led government. In addition to Pakistan (mentioned above), Saudi Arabia has been suggested as a possible peace broker. At least one political leader questioned the purpose of the Jirga now that the checkered presidential election is over, as he and others had pushed for the Jirga to displace the war-time election as the means for selecting Afghanistan's leader.
The Newark-Star Ledger has a moving story on suicides in the military. Though this is hardly a story about numbers, it is worth grasping that 2,100 members of the military have taken their lives since the War on Terror began- almost triple the number of troops that have died in Afghanistan.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has come out strongly against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, asking for a focus on Afghan training and follow the advice of Ambassador Eikenberry to focus on rebuilding the nation's civilian infrastructure. The Star Tribune, is of course, a small paper, but I've noticed over the past few months that every few days a different local paper comes out against the war. I don't have the time to go back and find each one, but from now one, as the editorials are published, I am posting them to the right hand corner of this page, under the anti-war articles by influential journalists. As far as I know, there is no central depository of all the editorials from newspapers that have come out against the war. Finally, just to clarify, this list will represent editorial board pieces, not editorials from individuals. Were that the case, the list would be too long to post.

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