In the feel-good story of the year, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates sat down for an interview at George Washington University yesterday and said the US was committed to doing a bit o’ nation-building on the regional level with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Backing the play of their boss, they said a deliberate approach to setting the proper objectives and policies in Afghanistan was necessary. Why those policies and objectives appear to be a continuation of what the last administration did has yet to be explained. From CNN:
The Taliban insurgency currently has the momentum in Afghanistan, Gates said, adding that a Taliban takeover of the country would empower the al Qaeda terrorist network.
“Because of our inability and the inability, frankly, of our allies to put enough troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban do have the momentum right now,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno in the panel discussion that included Clinton.
An eventual Taliban victory would provide “added space” for al Qaeda to set up in the country and enhance recruiting and fundraising, bolstered by the perspective of a second victory over a superpower by Muslim forces after having driven out the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
“We’re not leaving Afghanistan,” he declared, adding: “There should be no uncertainty in terms of our determination to remain in Afghanistan and to continue to build a relationship of partnership and trust with the Pakistanis. That’s long term. That’s a strategic objective of the United States.”
It’s not a rice paddy, but it’s a quagmire nonetheless.