Friday, November 20, 2009

New Questions on Afghanistan

New Questions on Afghanistan
By Jerome Grossman

When President Obama tells the nation his revised policy on Afghanistan, he will surely indicate that America's mission in that country is not open-ended in duration, that we will leave when our objectives have been accomplished, and that the objectives are worth the sacrifices.

The president should address the problem of corruption within the government of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and explain why the C.I.A. had his brother on its payroll. Did the C.I.A. foster the widespread Afghan corruption that we are now criticizing? The same brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is widely believed to be involved in the highly profitable drug trade. When this was called to the attention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she said, "Every country makes compromises, and it behooves you to be humble about pointing fingers." This was hardly a denial, and it fits neatly with her comfort with the Karzai regime despite evidence of widespread fraud in the recent presidential election.

Another front requires a presidential explanation. The Obama administration prides itself on transparency in government operations but it hasn't told us about the U.S. Army providing security that will enable China to exploit in Afghanistan one of the world's largest deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its insatiable appetite for valuable raw materials.

This U.S. troop deployment protects the Chinese investment-the largest in Afghanistan's history-from the Taliban and the impoverished locals. It saves the Chinese from having to send their own troops abroad to defend their economic interests. We seem to have no problem doing just that-even keeping our troops there-under fire-for a decade. Remarkably, we are doing this favor for the Chinese in spite of the fact that a qualified American corporation bid but lost the contract. When Chinese President Hu Jintao recently had dinner with President Obama, did they discuss the quid pro quo for this remarkable cooperation? Should we know the deal?

Beijing faces enormous challenges in completing the project and gaining access to the estimated 240,000,000 tons of copper accessible through surface mining alone. Taliban-led insurgents are likely to harass the Chinese project for nationalistic reasons to preserve this valuable Afghan asset from the foreigners. It is estimated that this project development will take decades. Is this another indication that U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely?


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