President Barack Obama is scheduled to lay out his Afghan strategy in a speech at West Point tonight, and an expert at the UW says he’s got his work cut out for him. Political scientist, professor Jon Pevehouse, thinks the Obama administration ought to be setting a low bar as far as what’s realistically achievable in Afghanistan. “The idea that we’re going to leave Afghanistan in the next five ten years, leaving it a functioning multi-party democracy is a pipe dream,” says Pevehouse. But he does see building stable local institutions as a reasonable goal for the U.S. “Getting a typical Afghani to really get behind and support local governance institutions, to try to make inroads to the Taliban.”
Washington, Pevehouse believes, has to be firm with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. “To say, ‘look, unless you clean up your act on corruption, unless you stop signing these gentleman’s agreements with these Pashtun drug-dealing clans in the south and the west . . . we will start to withdraw'” Pevehouse notes that many Afghans don’t view the Karzai government as legitimate, and that’s a problem for the U.S. “The government that you’re trying to support has to viewed as legitimate, and it’s clear that a lot of people in Afghanistan do not view them as legitimate. And I think one reason for this long delay that you’ve seen in announcing a new strategy, has been waiting for the election outcome. And I think the election outcome was certainly not what the administration wanted.”
And what does the American public think of the goal of building democracy in Afghanistan? “They don’t see that as potentially a worthy goal, or they see it as a worthy goal that is just unachievable,” says Pevehouse. “If you ask them should we do it to fight the Talibam, to fight Al Queada, to try to increase U.S. security in the short term, you do get . . . a bare majority,” of support. President Obama is expected to announce 30,000 more U.S. troops for the eight year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
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