Tuesday, April 06, 2004

EXIT STRATEGY. Richard Clarke tells Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker why he believes the Administration hasn't put enough troops into Afghanistan:
In retrospect, Clarke said, he believes that the President and his men did not respond for three reasons: "One, they did not want to get involved in Afghanistan like Russia did. Two, they were saving forces for the war in Iraq. And, three, Rumsfeld wanted to have a laboratory to prove his theory about the ability of small numbers of ground troops, coupled with airpower, to win decisive battles."
The wider effects of Rumsfield's plan are being felt in Iraq, but the Sec Def still plans no increase in U.S. troop strength there, either. Why should he? In a few months it won't be his problem anymore.

Rumsfeld today treated reporters to the NATO Secretary General, who made an interesting statement about the issue of a wider NATO role in Iraq -- especially after the planned June 30 handoff:
SEC.-GEN. DE HOOP SCHEFFER: As I said, 17 out of the 26 NATO nations have their forces on the ground and will have the transfer of sovereignty on the 30th of June, 1st of July. After that date, we'll have a sovereign Iraqi government. Then it is, of course, up to that Iraqi government, let's say, to decide what that government wants, because then we have a, clearly, cut-off between what is the situation now in the Iraq and what will be the situation after the 1st of July. And if that will come to a discussion in the NATO alliance, it is not easy to say, too hard to say at the moment, but I repeat, 17 out of 26 NATO nations are on the ground in Iraq, although it's not a NATO operation as such.
They're watching the clock. I expect the Iraqi Governing Council will certainly want, and need, all the heavily-armed help it can get at that point. President Mission Accomplished will hold onto that withdrawal date, and if the country is still a mess, well, it'll be a multinational mess, not ours (or his).

I think the political idea is to turn Iraq, in the popular imagination, into another Bosnia or Haiti -- an ongoing, far-away problem with which, thank God, we are only tangentially involved. We did the liberation -- let others do the mopping up.

(Oh, the Sec Gen also hopes for "a new [U.N.] Security Council resolution mandating specifically an international stabilization force in the longer term in Iraq. It will, of course, be... an important role, I hope, the crucial role." He's watching his ass, too.)

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