July 19th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

Expert: Afghanistan policy not working

One of the most respected voices among U.S. foreign policy experts says the Obama Administration’s Afghan policy is not working.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a veteran of several U.S. administrations, writes in the latest edition of Newsweek: “Continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.”

Speaking on CNN’s American Morning on Monday, Haass said Afghanistan was now “a sponge for American resources and it is a distraction. We out to be thinking militarily about what we might have to do in North Korea or Iran where we really do have vital national interests.”

He added the scale of the mission in Afghanistan now amounted to nation-building. “The Taliban, maybe 30, 40-thousand of them that they're going after, and this represents to some extent half the population of Afghanistan,” he said.

Haass proposed a much more targeted counter-terrorism approach – of the sort that was attributed to Vice-President Biden in recent internal discussions at the White House on Afghanistan. “We could have done in Afghanistan essentially what we're doing in places like Yemen and Somalia,” Haass said.

“We don't have 100,000 troops in those countries. We've got a few special forces there. We can target those terrorists or people who are supporting terrorists with drones, cruise missiles, special forces.”

“The Taliban share the same [Pashtun] ethnicity of half the population of Afghanistan. So Mr. Obama has essentially made the United States now a central participant in Afghanistan's civil war," Haass said.

A recent study by the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network argued that the Taliban’s influence and appeal extended well beyond Afghanistan’s Pashtun heartland.

Haass suggested a different approach to Afghanistan should include working directly with local leaders – bypassing the government in Kabul – and providing them weapons. President Hamid Karzai has resisted arming local militia, fearing it will revive “warlordism.”

He also suggested essentially a “truce” with the Taliban, allowing them control or influence over certain parts of the country if they renounce al Qaeda.

“We know you're going to come back in parts of the country, you have strong connections. If you don't bring back al Qaeda, if you don't undermine the rest of the country, then we won't attack you.”

But Haass supported the Administration’s focus on Pakistan.

“Pakistan has more than 100 nuclear weapons; it's host to the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations," he said. “The last thing we want is for Pakistan to go from a fragile state – which it is now – to a failed state. The United States is right to make sure Pakistan does not unravel.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Islamabad Monday a major trade and aid package for Pakistan, which will focus on developing its energy sector. The country is plagued by power shortages.

Read more Security Briefs from CNN's Tim Lister on This Just In blog

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Filed under: Decision: Afghanistan • Obama
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. USMC forever

    Obama and Clinton, stop being retards, Pakistan is lying to you and taking our money. Attack Pakistan now and kill the real Terrorists.

    July 26, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pashtun

    kid friendly: CIA invokes a monster (jihad) against ussr through ISI. The monster (taliban) eats KGB CIA n ISI for breakfast.
    conclusion: US n USSR share da same fate?

    July 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tacfit Commando

    I iwsh our president would concentrate on our own problems and spend the billions of dollars on sorting out our own recession rather than problems overseas

    July 23, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Marc

    There will never be a policy formulated by the West that will solve the problems in the Middle East......these problems predate the Western civilization by thousands of years. When mankind learns not to hate because of differences in color, religion, nationality and so on and learns to work together, then problems will be solved....not before.

    July 23, 2010 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |

    The problem with this country is that we have several experts on any subject or any situation you can think of.
    But the bigger problem is that with all these experts the vast majority of problems/ situations remains on sovled and in many cases even get worse. Hell I can be an expert after the fact too. Seems to me that all this talk about the greatest country with the greatest minds in the world is nothing but a show. The Russians were in Afghanistan for 10 years and could not win, the US could not win in Vietnam either.

    July 23, 2010 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Perflead

    Remember taliban were our greatest friends when we fought the soviet union.
    So friendship depends on mutual interest & mutual respect.
    If we stop humiliating the world, and not support humiilation by anyone of anyone, enemies can again change into friends.
    World can become a peaceful place.

    July 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Perflead

    Pakistan cannot afford to fight the terrorists without American money, weapons. Pakistan.
    Pakistan is in deep debt due to the expense of the war on terrrorism.
    The outcome of the war is in the joint interest of Ameriica & Pakistan both, and this is the reason America is helping Pakistan.
    Pakistan is not getting a free lunch. Pakistan military is laying down their lives.
    Pakistan has faced the highest number of casutalties in fighting terrorism.
    Thousands of s pakistani soldiers have died in the fight against terrorism. so I ask some of the commentators not to be hateful to Pakistan, Pakistan is paying a huge price, and pakistan's sacrifices are in the joint interest of America & Pakistan both.

    July 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Perflead

    Who ever killed the 3000 civlians on 9/11, was evil withoiut a doubt.
    But someoby should have been asked to resign, somebody withiin American should have been held responsible for the neigligence. It did not happen.
    Anyway, we reacted to the situaion, and avenged the death & destruction on 9/11, ,way more than 3000.
    We killed hundreds of thousands of civlians in Iraq & Afghanistan to avenge 911 deaths & destruction of tower.
    How many more Miuslim civilans do we want kill to avenge the 3000 deaths on 9/11 & the destuction of towers?
    The number of Muslim civilians we have killed so far is enough to quench our thrist for the blood of Muslim civlians.
    By the way, it is collateral damage, if fewer civlians would have died as a result of our attacks in Iraq or Afghaistan.
    But it is policy when almost everyone killed in our attack is civlian.
    As an example, We killed hundreds & thousands of civliians of Nagasaki & Hiroshima, in response to pearl harbor attack, which was an attack on a military base, not civlians.
    Germans killed millions of jewish civilians?
    Mlosovich & serbians killed millions of Muslim civlians in Bosnia & Kosovo
    Indian army has killed at least hundred thousand civilans in the state of Kashmir.
    I think we should add up the numbers in all regions & see who has done a better of job o killing civlians, Muslims or non Muslims. And make friends now.
    I think it is time to move on, and make friends, we have already avenged the attack. We may reach a point we do not get the borrowed money due to economic consequences, and we have no choice but to give up for survival.

    July 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Neo

    Beggaristan or Pakistan?

    July 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Erica

    Every war that has been fought even though some claim victory they truly did lose because if they had won there would be no reason for war today. Why is there need to control the population God said go be fruitful so why are they still trying to kill us off unless it would have to be something they are trying to cover up, but Why? To control A Wasteland World because you are destroying it with all the warfare and cemicals that are being used to exterminate its population. But as long as they keep brainwashing the simple minded into believing all the carp they broadcast will then so be it you will be trained and sent to die for a lost cause what a waste of a life you are born to live to why to we live in a world where it is meaning less, soon people will see that they have all been fooled but now is the time to take a stand and not continue this same path of destruction.

    July 22, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Perflead

    None of us are directly responsible for making any change to the situation in Afhganistan or the world.
    Therefore, it is better to focus on the issues with objectivity, and not take anything personal.
    It is easy to criticize other, it takes a strong personality to look at the both sides, appreciate & criticize any of the sides based on objectivity & not desire, and speak the truth, even if it does not support ones emotionial attachment. Life is short anyway for everyone, and nobody owns nothing in the end, once we die.
    Now the leadership of Afghanistan are trying to integrate with the taliban, because they know they will be dealing with them afte Americans leave.
    Karzai is seeking Pakistani help to make their integration with taliban possible.
    Paksitan alone can get taliban & Karzai together due to their influence on Haqani network & Quette shura.
    Pakistan has strong influence in the regions due to the fact more than half the pashtuns live on pakistani side of the borders, and that Pakisani military was directly involved with Afghan fighters & Americans during the Afghan war against Soviet Union.
    These are ground realities.
    Americans government do not hide that Pakistanis & 'Americans have been partners in the war against the Soviet union. Pakistani American deep relationship since 1948 is part of American history. It is not good weather friendship. It has been the same all along, except when Ameicans walked away after the Soviet collapse, that brought the reaction due to dispair, devestation, humiliation in the region.
    The truth is the key to world peace is respect everybody, don't humiliate anyone. Don't allow even your dearest to humiliate anyone.
    All problems in the world start when people are humiliated or someoby allow their attached bathrooms (unavoidables, spoiled children) of the world to humiliate others.
    I hope the world realizes that, and world becomes a peaceful place.

    July 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The_Mick

    By 1963, John F. Kennedy realized it was time to get out of Vietnam but knew he couldn't do it without political suicide before the 1964 elections. Obama has to be thinking similarly about 2012. If Obama isn't reelected, I wonder if the next President will be stuck with the same problem as Kennedy's successors, until Gerald Ford had the courage and wisdom to say, "enough!"

    July 22, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Perflead

    The problem is we are borrowing money, and fighting wars. It is not practical. Soviet Union decided to leave Afganistan war because they ran huge deficit and afte so many years of war could not afford to continue fighting. We do not want to be in s similar situation. It cost several hundred billions and it adds up with interest, because it is borrowed money.

    July 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Perflead

    Some of us tend to forget, that America has been involved with Pakistan since at least 1948, it did not happen after the Soviet collapse as a result of Afghan war. America & Pakistan fought the Soviet war together, though in different roles.
    The orchestration by Pakistani military & the blood of millions of Mujahideen fighiting against the Soviets resultuted in the end of cold war and, brought succes to Americans.
    American used to spy over Soviet union in the pre cold war era from Pakistan. U2's used to fly from Badaber, Peshawar. Pakistan received threat of ahihilation from Soviet Union as a result of the Pakistan's defence cooperation with the USA.
    Pakistani commandos helped resucue the US soldiers trapped in Mogidushu
    Current leadership of Paksitan is known to be corrupt.
    Americans should be careful, the money they spent should go to the the growth they plan to achieve, and not in the pockets.

    July 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Perflead

    If people reverted to Islam by force, then who is forcing the world population today to revert to Islam. If Muslims had tried to do with happened after spanish inquisition, the entire India or at least most would have been Muslim. It is against the teachings of Islam, to convert people by compulsion. Also, if you look carefully at the history, Muslims fought battles the armed, and never killed civilian, and this is the reason the 99.9999 percent of Muslims do not support the terrorists today, becasue they are killing civilians.

    July 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  16. CommanderBill

    An attack that came from and was supported by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan caused that thousands of Americans dead and billions of dollars of property loss. That was an act of war. Until all the At-Qaeda and Taliban forces are destroyed we need to stay the course. Any weakness will undoubtedly end with additional attacks on United States. The only choice we have is to win the war with out regard to how long it takes.

    July 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  17. PCN2485

    There isn't one coherent statement on this page. Most of you need to put on your tin foil hats.

    July 22, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  18. monserrate echevarria

    The problem with Iraq,Pakistan and Afghanistan is that US has compromise to theses gov. Two, are somewhat corrupted and the other who knows, the us gov. is waisting the tax payer money and our econ. is getting worst, one of the reason is supporting foreign countries were our goal is prevail our presence, does not matter for which purposes but who will be blame, I let you use your wisdom and imagination

    July 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Smith in Oregon

    It appears the Shadow Government in America and over democratically elected America under the guise of 'Dept. of Homeland Security, (DHS) has already decided to implement a plan similar to the Clinton plan used to carve up Iraq in the Saddam embargo era. Segments of Afghanistan would be alloted to the fighting faction representing Pakistan, another segment alloted to the fighting faction representing India and another to the Afghanistan people. Treaty's among the proxy nations and combatants and Afghan people (India, Pakistan, Taliban, Pashtun's Afghanistans) would be agreed upon and signed bringing a ceasefire and a expanded role for UN Peacekeepers in the region.

    China has already secured Billions of dollars worth of Afghanistan mineral leases which Bush-Cheney also provided to China with in Iraq after America has given thousands of her Son's and Daughters, Blood, Sweat, Tears and more than 1 Trillion taxpayer dollars in each of those two foreign Wars. Victory it seems for Bush-Cheney was making China even richer and more powerful than it normally would have been, who would have thought that when Bush sr. was the de facto attache' (ambassador) to Taiwan and operating with the CIA all those years?

    July 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ummmm

      a link with the facts so that we dont have to take your word for, because no one takes your word for it.

      July 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  20. CommonSense

    Here's an Idea.

    Big Bomb over the middle east...Big Boom...Problem solved!! Any questions?

    July 20, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ernie Beatty

      Why not?That way the United States,Great Britain and France will totally free to exploit the whole region for themselves and have crushed Islam once and for all!

      July 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • WalkingFan

      ...so far the best comment and idea I've heard

      July 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  21. etondl

    What a waste of life. So far, the only gain we have ever had in Afghanistan are dead soldiers and civilians on both sides, widows, orphaned children, broken hearted parents and friends. Why don't you post how many Afghans have been killed and maimed since the war started. We are so arrogant that we truly feel that an American life is more important than any other life. Afghanistan has been the same ever since Alexander the Great conquered it. But Americans are going to change it? Yeah, right!!!!

    July 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |

      I agree,etondi.The same way Hitler tried to change Europe and failed due to the Russian army.

      July 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • Uncle Beasley

        Actually, Hitler failed for the same reason that Napoleon did. The Russian winter is too severe for offensive military operations. The Russians have fought in that winter for centuries.

        July 21, 2010 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Perflead

      Good comment!

      July 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  22. hhchaudh

    "Haass suggested a different approach to Afghanistan should include working directly with local leaders – bypassing the government in Kabul – and providing them weapons. President Hamid Karzai has resisted arming local militia, fearing it will revive “warlordism.”

    He also suggested essentially a “truce” with the Taliban, allowing them control or influence over certain parts of the country if they renounce al Qaeda."

    Haass, I respectfully disagree. The Taliban are the enemy, and they always will be. Seeings how we're already there, why not wipe out the Taliban in order to insure an Afghanistan with a future filled with freedom and prosperity rather than fear and chaos?

    July 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      Taliban are as mobile as any other group-there is no "wiping them out there"-they will simply move away. The only thing that will "wipe them out" is cutting off their money-they have to have money to operate just as any other organization, including al-Qaeda. Every time we kill someone in a foreign country we make enemies-their friends, thier families, their countrymen. Military victory?-what is that-the impossible dream-and if we achieve it –then what??

      July 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Just so the United States,Great Britain and France can take full control of the region,you advocate the elimination of the Taliban.Hopefully it won't happen.This axis needs to be stopped,hhchaudh and that's all there is to it.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
      • Thinker

        Americans don't realize that Afghans (and Iraqis & the majority of the Arab world) DONT think like us. They don't WANT our lifestyle. If anything, Saddam did what the Americans couldn't in Iraq and that is control the country. Didn't see car bombings and IEDs in Iraqi on Iraqi attacks. And Afghanistan has been at war within itself for centuries. Ultimately, the Taliban sucks but they won't fight against them so why should we.

        Oh and did anyone notice that at Camp Pendleton in California a boat FULL of illegal immigrants docked and ran around the Marine base. Didn't get much play on national news but imagine if they were terrorists. Protecting our borders & the economy should be Obama's priority.

        July 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Smith in Oregon

    Today's Washington Post revealed the extremely vast scope of what the utterly corrupt and depraved Republican administration of Bush-Cheney had built on hidden taxpayer money, behind the backs of many elected lawmakers under the guise of 'The Dept. of Homeland Security Agency'. A 1 Trillion dollar boon dongle composed of 1,300 Agency's across America with 800,000 employees at top secret or higher clearance!

    And how did Bush-Cheney fund that under the very noses of Congressional oversight members? By stealing that amount largely from the huge Social Security coffer and issuing Treasury IOU's in return.

    What is really troubling is if the new Shadow branch of Government is actually above the civilian elected Executive Branch of the President and do they dictate to The President?

    Another troubling feature of this gigantic shadow Government is that in a peaceful world, this enormous taxpayer dollar gulping super agency would quickly be broken up and shut-down. In order to even function and have a reason to continue to exist there must be several ongoing Wars all the time. And I suspect if no Wars are ongoing, this new American shadow Government would create several Wars.

    This is a fearful and sad chapter for America's people and elected democracy whom largely doesn't live in deep underground taxpayer provided Military bunkers. The propeller heads living in such deep bunkers often come to act out plans and operations which the majority living on the surface in wooden houses wouldn't survive.

    July 20, 2010 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Che

      This may be just a part of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned the US to guard against.

      July 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  24. BSTeh

    As Mr.Haass diplomatically put it, call for a 'truce'. The US has a penchant for such euphemism. Others include 'mission accomplished', 'victory', 'strategic withdrawal', 'honorable disengagement'. Does he really, in the face of universal rules of engagement, expect the Talibans to agree to a conditional truce when their opponent is on the way out of the battlefield due to battle fatigue, feeling the consequence of resource depletion,and tackling the effects of imperial overstretch.

    The truth is better expressed by Karzai's proposal in paying off the Talibans on the naive condition that they renounce links with Al-Qaeda, and providing them with jobs. How is he going to ensure that the Talibans will not topple him once the ISAF forces leave Afghanistan as the sands of time runs out? One don't have to dig very deep to uncover the names of the Ngos, the Thieus, and the Chiangs to see reruns of history.

    More importantly, why should the Talibans agree to a Karzai administration when it is tainted by the hands of foreign invaders, tainted by Karzai's own fallibilities and tainted by the perceived evils of secularism. If the US cannot bring them to their knees after investing 8 years worth of sacrificed lives and wasted treasures, what makes anyone think that Karzai can do better.

    What then happens to the so-called collaborators with the foreign invaders? Perhaps Bubba-Alabama Style has the best answer, get out of Afghanistan and leave it to the Afghans to decide what they want and how to do it. With conditions! They'd be like dust in the wind, don't you think.

    July 20, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  25. Smith in Oregon

    Afghanistan is the arm pit of the world and one of the most expensive places for American taxpayers to pour hundreds of Billions of dollars into building massive bases, fort's, landing strips, Afghanistan infra-structure, cricket fields, soccer fields and ice hockey rinks. All under the crass and callous guise of nation building, something the US Military was not intended to do, that is a task for the UN peace keepers which American taxpayers have poured hundreds of additional Billions into that organization over the decades.

    It appears that 99.5% of all the money American taxpayers are pouring into Afghanistan is being funneled into the greedy and utterly corrupt pockets of the Karzai clan. With the immense profits of many Billions of untraceable dollars from the Opium-Heroin exporting business, why does the Karzai Clan need Hundreds of Billions of free American taxpayer dollars? The answer is he doesn't, America should cut off the enormous free flowing spigot of free money to a utterly corrupt dictator (Hamid Karzai), his hand picked War Lords and Drug Lords across Afghanistan and call the Afghanistan War DONE.

    July 19, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • pashtun

      add pakistan to it.. they collabrate with china and give weapons to taliban.

      July 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • rrock

      No one cares about waste so long as the defense contractors are making money and the military has something to do to justify their trillion a year budget.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • Daniel-2

        Well put,rrock.

        July 23, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  26. RC Lackey

    Richard Haass

    July 19, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |

    What we need to do is leave Afghanistan to the Afghans and clear out of there and just ignore all these right-wing fanatics in Washington.

    July 19, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesse Cook

      But what about all those recently discovered mineral deposits over there?Do you think that NATO should just simply turn it's back on them without exploiting them?I don't that the politicians in Washington will accept that proposition.

      July 19, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
      • Andrew

        China already had those deposits in their sites. They don't get involved in the fighting but they'll sure to be the ones profiting while the west wrings its collective hands about gouging Mother Earth.

        July 21, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
      • rrock

        Hey, brilliant. Lets spend a few hundred billion a year so we can get a couple billion in resources a year out of the place.

        July 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |

        Thats the history of the white man, find resources in other countries, make the people believe you come in peace and to help, then exploit thier resources while giving nothing in return.

        July 23, 2010 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
    • davec

      The author of this article needs to go back to school and learn how to write.

      July 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      The only thing is we have a LEFT WING president for the last 18 months and a LEFT WING congress since 2007 understand? Obama just put 30,000 more boots on the ground. That was Obama that did that. Where have you been?

      July 22, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • Don Beal

        That doesn't seem particularly left-wing. If President Obama took the troops out instead of putting more in, I bet the complaint would be that he was doing it because he and Congress were left-wing.

        July 23, 2010 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |