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Pup on the pull-aside

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, September 22nd, 2009 - 21 comments
Categories: afghanistan - Tags:

Two stories from today’s Dominion give a hint as to what might be muttered under their breath as Key and Obama pose for the cameras at the upcoming UN reception:

Key to Obama: “I’m sending more troops to Afghanistan – they’ve promised me verbally they won’t torture prisoners.”

Obama to Key: “I’m not, until I’ve got more information; McChrystal tells me we will lose unless we get a new strategy.”

The first story, headlined “PM given no-torture promise”, shows Key’s response to questions about corruption in the recent Afghanistan elections:

Mr Key acknowledged concerns about the elections, but said he did not seek advice on the issue before authorising the deployment.

He brushed off suggestions he should have waited for the final result to avoid any perception New Zealand was propping up an illegitimate government. “… we are supporting that administration as we seek to try and stabilise Afghanistan.

“I think the alternative is that we are left with a country where control is ceded to the Taleban, where in all probability more terrorist activities will be planned and schemes will be hatched, and I don’t believe that’s in the world’s best interest.”

Contrast this with Obama’s response to a report from NATO commander General McChrystal leaked to the Washington Post, headlined “More troops or Afghan war lost”:

In a series of interviews on Sunday Obama said he would not rush to a decision and wanted to first review his strategy for the region before considering whether to send more troops.

“I just want to make sure that everybody understands that you don’t make decisions about resources before you have the strategy ready,” he told ABC.

In his assessment, McChrystal painted a grim picture of the war so far, saying “the overall situation is deteriorating.”

He called for a “revolutionary” shift putting more emphasis on protecting Afghans than on killing insurgents.

“Our objective must be the population,” he wrote. “The objective is the will of the people, our conventional warfare culture is part of the problem. The Afghans must ultimately defeat the insurgency.”

Key didn’t seek advice before sending troops! That’s extraordinary in a matter so serious. He’s got it wrong about what sort of war it is as well. But Tom Scott has got it right – we’ve got a clown for a Prime Minister.

21 comments on “Pup on the pull-aside ”

  1. r0b 1

    Tim Watkin at Pundit also has a good piece on this.

    • gargoyle 1.1

      Is this the same Tim Watkin who wrote …..

      “Those advocating non-involvement by New Zealand and immediate withdrawal by US and ISAF forces must either offer an exit strategy that is both instant and orderly or be willing take responsibility for the death and mayhem that follows. Because I can’t envisage the former or do the latter, I can’t oppose the government’s decision. The least worst option is that foreign forces do what they can to stabilise the country before leaving over the medium term.

      So the core issue is how to retire those ISAF and US troops without the house of cards collapsing behind them. And that is a problem we have a responsibility to help solve.

      It is precisely because we have sent troops in on three previous occasions that we are right to send troops back in now. It is, in part, our mess. We must play our part in cleaning it up. Only then can this time of war become the time of peace that we all long for.”


      • Zorr 1.1.1

        I understand your bringing up this previous piece of his. I have just read both but it is important to note at least one of the major starting points of the article you cite:
        “It should have been the most difficult decision this government has to make this term and it should be a decision that has nothing to do with trade. I won’t judge the personal integrity of Cabinet members on that first issue, but I fear that trade was indeed an issue.”

        The article that has been cited by r0b has the opening line:
        “Is it just me, or does the government’s handling of the SAS deployment to Afghanistan seem somewhat, well, loose?”

        Tim Watkin made the point in the August 11 article that he saw (and, at least, partially supported) the reason for heading back in to Afghanistan if it was done with the right levels of consideration for all the facts. The September 22 article may as well have opened with a giant “WTF! Who are these clowns sending our troops over to fight in a losing war with insufficient details?”

        There is no hipocrisy between the two opinions espoused by Tim Watkins in those articles as he clearly states, in both of them, his reasoning behind them. You have merely chosen to quote mine to undermine his credibility as an excellent commentator.

    • Tim W 1.2

      r0b, thanks for the link, and Zorr, many thanks for the compliment and for seeing past the simplistic anti or pro rhetoric around this war.
      I think we have an obligation to Afghanistan. We have been part of the problem there and we have to find a strategy now that leaves Afghanistan in the best possible shape for the future. Saying ‘the war’s bad, we should pull out’ isn’t a responsible answer. It would take months to pull out and whether those who hate the invasion like it or not, the Taliban is a threat to any fan of democracy and rights and could return to power if a better alternative isn’t established. What’s more, the danger of Pakistan is very real. Condemning the war has to be the start of the conversation, not the end.
      Gargoyle, if you want to be taken seriously, tell me your exit strategy (a proper plan for a military withdrawal) that is superior to working towards an exit over the next few years.
      What McChrystal and Obama are finally recognising is the damage caused by drone bombing and the like. The focus is changing, and for the better. Before they bugger off, they want to build up the democratic institutions, create a degree of safety that the locals will value and want to maintain once the international forces are gone. It’s a long shot, but it may just give Aghanis a chance at building a stable country, whatever form that may take.
      If John Key had expressed anything like a sophisticated view of what the SAS can contribute to that goal, we’d have won my support. Setting new precedents for revealing the movements of the SAS seemingly off-the-cuff and relying on the media for reports of the Afghan elections, not taking official advice? That’s scary and inept.

  2. outofbed 2

    Yes r0b making it up as they go along , seems par for the course
    But when you start putting lives at risk that a different matter
    When is this government going to be held to account for their amateurish approach to things?

  3. randal 3

    its a fib that johnny key is going to be asked the top ten questions on the letterman show. they are actually going to toss him in the will it float tank!

  4. Ianmac 4

    I was sure that one of the reasons for being in Afghanistan was to instal and protect an oil pipe-line which crosses through the country. The cluster of USA Army bases happento straddle the area. Therefore hard for USA to quit. Detail? Just one from my memory.

  5. Ianmac 5

    Fairly sure that the pipeline was built about 2002 and guarded ever since hence the concentration of troops in the South?

    • Bill 5.1

      Was never built. There are two proposed pipelines running through S Afghanistan (one of the proposals would have sweet f.a. to do with the US and NATO) and the US and NATO are building a base there.

  6. burt 6

    He brushed off suggestions he should have waited for the final result to avoid any perception New Zealand was propping up an illegitimate government

    Nothing illegitimate about that govt once it’s validated – and that’s all that matters isn’t it – that the govt say they didn’t break any laws…. “most people” in that govt would agree that they did nothing wrong so we should just move on really.

    • Maynard J 6.1

      Where did this ‘move on’ line come from Burt? I am wondering whether it was something actually said, or just a meme that you are intent on spinning. I mean you use it each and every time National does anything wrong in order to defend them while pretending that you are somehow holding people to account, because you seem to think that all events are exactly the same… Would be interesting to see some context around the original “quote”..

  7. I agree with Zorr, but would add that I really take issue with Tim’s stated reasons for continuing the military action in Afghanistan.

    To call carrying on the way we are the “least worst option” is just a little shallow, in my opinion.

    And even assuming Obama follows the call for a massive increase in troop numbers (and that necessarily entails a massive increase in civilian deaths in that country as those US troops are trained to kill, not nation build) flies in the face of the lessons of history.

    The same argument of leaving behind civil war etc when the invaders depart has been trotted out so often even in my lifetime that it beggars belief our political masters and esteemed commentators still fall for it.

    Think of India, Vietnam, Algeria: same arguments but the invaders still departed. The best answer I have come across was delivered by Ghandi to the British. Something like: Just pack up and leave…what happens next is none of your business!

    And then make and stay friends with whomever wins control. If it is the Taliban, at least the supply of poppy-derived drugs on the world market will drop substantially.

    The worst option is, in fact, escalation. The best option is to leave and let Afghanistan sort themselves out – it was a mess before we arrived and will remain a mess, at least for a while, after we leave.

    Al Qaeda remains a legitimate target, but Afghanistan’s civil war is none of our business.

  8. hire 8

    obama wants more time to about what to do………… what a crap man…..

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