Afghanistan de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­ducted a vig­or­ous in­ter­nal de­bate over its new strat­egy for Afghanistan, ex­pected to be un­veiled by the pres­i­dent in a speech Fri­day.

Ac­cord­ing to two U.S. gov­ern­ment sources close to the is­sue, se­nior pol­i­cy­mak­ers were di­vided over how com­pre­hen­sive to make the strat­egy, in­volv­ing an ini­tial boost of 17,000 U.S. troops.

On the one side were Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. and Deputy Sec­re­tary of State James B. Stein­berg, who ar­gued in closed-door meet­ings for a min­i­mal strat­egy of sta­bi­liz­ing Afghanistan that one source de­scribed as a “low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor” ap­proach.

The goal of th­ese ad­vo­cates was to limit civil­ian and other non­mil­i­tary ef­forts in Afghanistan and fo­cus on a main mil­i­tary ob­jec­tive of deny­ing safe haven to the Tal­iban and al Qaeda ter­ror­ists.

The other side of the de­bate was led by Richard C. Hol­brooke, the spe­cial en­voy for the re­gion, who along with U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand leader Gen. David H. Pe­traeus and Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton fought for a ma­jor na­tion-build­ing ef­fort.

The Hol­brooke-Pe­traeusClin­ton fac­tion, ac­cord­ing to the sources, pre­vailed. The re­sult is ex­pected to be a ma­jor, long-term mil­i­tary and civil­ian pro­gram to rein­vent Afghanistan from one of the most back­ward, least de­vel­oped na­tions to a rel­a­tively pros­per­ous demo­cratic state.

Ac­cord­ing to one de­fense of­fi­cial close to the de­bate, the key to suc­cess in Afghanistan re­mains elim­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ist safe havens and train­ing camps, which are no longer in Afghanistan but in Pak­istan.

“How­ever, all of our ac­tions are ori­ented on four lines of op­er­a­tion — se­cu­rity to set con­di­tions for gov­er­nance, de­vel­op­ment, rule of law with in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions and coun­ternar­cotics cross-cut­ting ef­forts,” the of­fi­cial said.

The key to any strat­egy re­mains Pak­istan and its bor­der re­gions, which re­main ter­ror safe havens, said the of­fi­cial, who, like the other sources, spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the in­for­ma­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Gen. Pe­traeus made sure the Afghan strat­egy sought to bor­row from the suc­cess­ful coun­terin­sur­gency strat­egy and tac­tics used in Iraq. Ac­cord­ing to one of­fi­cial in Afghanistan, many of the Afghans are not “hate­ful against the West.”

A White House spokesman and an aide to Mr. Hol­brooke de­clined to com­ment on the strat­egy or the de­bate over it. to launch­ing its long-range Tae­podong-2 mis­sile, which Py­ongyang has said will put a satel­lite in or­bit.

Jane’s In­tel­li­gence Re­view, the Bri­tish pub­li­ca­tion, ob­tained re­cent Dig­i­talGlobe im­agery of the Musu­dan launch site that shows the mis­sile erected on a launch pad.

The mag­a­zine’s ed­i­tor, Chris­tian Le Miere, stated that based on a re­view of satel­lite pho­tos from March 11 and 16, “it is ev­i­dent that the up­per stage of the um­bil­i­cal tower is open and pos­si­ble de­lin­eations to aid em­place­ment have been placed on the pad to cen­ter each stage of the [space launch ve­hi­cle] as it is con­structed.”

An­other key in­di­ca­tor of im­mi­nent launch is that a crane is vis­i­ble in the March 16 photo and was moved over the launch pad, sug­gest­ing prepa­ra­tions for launch are nearly com­plete.

Jane’s ac­cepted North Korean claims that the rocket is a space launcher, dubbed Unha-2 by Py­ongyang, that will at­tempt to place a com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite in or­bit.

North Korea has no­ti­fied in­ter­na­tional air-and sea­con­trol au­thor­i­ties that it plans to con­duct a space launch be­tween April 4 and 8.

A de­fense of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with in­tel­li­gence re­ports said the launcher was as­sessed to be a Tae­podong-2 long-range mis­sile but that North Korea’s gov­ern­ment is fol­low­ing Iran’s lead in pub­licly as­sert­ing that its long-range mis­sile pro­gram is a civil­ian

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