To Raid or Not To Raid?
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not happy with the way military operations are going in Afghanistan. He called on the United States to dial the military operations back and end nighttime special ops raids. Karzai said that “the time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.” Today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to the operations’ defense. She said that the administration is “very sensitive” of Karzai’s concerns about the impact of the U.S. presence on the war and the Taliban insurgency. But, Clinton said, the operations are in the “best interest” of Afghanistan, are having a “significant impact” and Washington believes “the use of intelligence-driven, precision-targeted operations against high value insurgents and their networks is a key component of our comprehensive civilian-military operations.”
General David Petraeus meanwhile is worried about the impact Karzai’s criticisms will have on U.S. progress in the war. The night raids in particular are central to Petraeus’s strategy in Afghanistan. The head of forces there reportedly responded to Karzai’s statements with “astonishment and disappointment.” He did not attend a scheduled meeting with Karzai on Sunday, and a news conference that was supposed to go along with the sitdown was canceled. Today, Kabul has been trying to calm things down a bit. Waheed Omar, Karzai’s spokesman, said today that the government still has full confidence in Petraeus.
Both Petraeus and Karzai are due in Lisbon at the end of the week for a NATO summit. The war in Afghanistan will be at the heart of the discussion. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of NATO, said he couldn’t agree with everything Karzai had to say and that continuing military operations to pressure the Taliban is “of utmost importance.” Yet he did agree that Afghan security forces needed to take on more responsibility. NATO states are expected to discuss just how to transfer control while in Lisbon.
Back to Clinton, today she called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to consider a new settlement freeze a “very promising development and a serious effort.” Washington hopes that a ninety-day halt of settlement construction in the West Bank will get the Palestinians back to the bargaining table. But the Palestinians have long called for the complete cessation of all settlement construction, which would also include Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama is being applauded for her diplomacy in India. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama won some hearts and minds, conveying “a very powerful message that we're not just speaking to the Indian elite” by directly interacting with many youth in the country.
And back at home, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is asking people to give the TSA’s new full-body scanners a chance. Many have said that the scanners violate privacy rights, but Napolitano argued that “each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal.”