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July 19th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Haass: U.S. should draw down in Afghanistan


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on July 19, 2010 in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Getty Images)

(CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Pakistan right now. She's just unveiled $7.5 billion in development aid aimed at winning some hearts and minds. That's part of the White House's strategy for turning things around across the border in Afghanistan where Clinton's headed next.

One of the most respected voices among US foreign policy experts says the Obama Administration’s Afghan policy is not working.

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and a veteran of several US administrations, writes in the latest edition of Newsweek: “Continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.”

Speaking on CNN’s American Morning Monday, Haass said Afghanistan was now “a sponge for American resources and it is a distraction. We out to be thinking militarily about what we might have to do in North Korea or Iran where we really do have vital national interests.” Watch Video

He added the scale of the mission in Afghanistan now amounted to nation-building. “The Taliban, maybe 30, 40-thousand of them that they're going after , and this represents to some extent half the population of Afghanistan,” he said.

Haass proposed a much more targeted counter-terrorism approach – of the sort that was attributed to Vice-President Biden in recent internal discussions at the White House on Afghanistan. “We could have done in Afghanistan essentially what we're doing in places like Yemen and Somalia,” Haass said.

“We don't have 100,000 troops in those countries. We've got a few special forces there. We can target those terrorists or people who are supporting terrorists with drones, cruise missiles, special forces.”

“The Taliban share the same [Pashtun] ethnicity of half the population of Afghanistan. So Mr. Obama has essentially made the United States now a central participant in Afghanistan's civil war,’ Haass said.

A recent study by the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network argued that the Taliban’s influence and appeal extended well beyond Afghanistan’s Pashtun heartland.

Haass suggested a different approach to Afghanistan should include working directly with local leaders – bypassing the government in Kabul – and providing them weapons. President Hamid Karzai has resisted arming local militia, fearing it will revive “warlordism.”

He also suggested essentially a “truce” with the Taliban, allowing them control or influence over certain parts of the country if they renounce al Qaeda.

“We know you're going to come back in parts of the country, you have strong connections. If you don't bring back al Qaeda, if you don't undermine the rest of the country, then we won't attack you.”

But Haass supported the Administration’s focus on Pakistan.

“Pakistan has more than 100 nuclear weapons; it's host to the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations, he said. “The last thing we want is for Pakistan to go from a fragile state – which it is now – to a failed state. The United States is right to make sure Pakistan does not unravel.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Islamabad Monday a major trade and aid package for Pakistan, which will focus on developing its energy sector. The country is plagued by power shortages.

Read more from CNN's Tim Lister


Filed under: Afghanistan • Hillary Clinton • Pakistan
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dushyant D. Banker

    The only rational policy for Pakistan is two-tiered, consisting of overt opposition to the Taliban and covert support for the Taliban.” Pakistan is activly harming us interest in the region to milk US for Aid. their best interest is harming US continuiously so they can be partner in solving the problem, they are put ing gesolin in fire and holding the water pipe in hand at the same time.

    July 29, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  2. ronvan

    BLAH, BLAH, BLAH: WE, the american people are gutless! NOTHING is going to change unless WE all come together and put a stop to this. Vote everyone of our "elected children" out of office, And I mean EVERYONE. Send a message that WE the people are fed up with the stupidity of "politics as usual". Bring ALLof our military, all over the world, home. Our "elected children" are not interested in winning anything and have handcuffed our military on actions they can take, which is costing more lives and injuries, on both sides. These countries do not want us there except to take our money. Do not insult me with the term "National Security". It is used freely to dupe us into thinking we have to do something, whether we need to or not. Why can't we just leave a message to ALL these countires that they are on their own? And then make it very clear that if any attacks happen on American soil, that the resulting actions from us would be so severe that every country would take action to eliminate these sub-human, religious idiots. I am not talking about putting troops on the ground. I would bomb, bomb, bomb, until they were so shell shocked that they would catch the ones responsible and provide us with proof positive that they are no longer living! Do not worry about killing innocents, they don't, and have proven it far to many times already.

    July 20, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  3. Ronny

    Amazing! Truly amazing.

    The US Government is constantly giving away billions of dollars to countries that are basically anti-American while Americans are suffering and struggling.

    Does not anybody see this as wrong as wrong can be?

    July 20, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  4. mike sey

    It's a shame that part of the reason for scaling down (or getting out of) Afghanistan is so that America can better prepare to go to war with Iran.

    July 20, 2010 at 7:06 am |
  5. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The Obama administration has just given away to Pakistan free and clear enough money to pay the social security stimulus that turned out to be a lie and enough to pay for unemployment for another six months just who is our government for .

    July 20, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  6. Smith in Oregon

    Could someone check the math here, this appears to be something like a depraved US Military Dr. Strange Love preparing for WW3 numbers!

    Today's Washington Post revealed some of the gigantic scope of the new Shadow Governmental Branch the utterly corrupt, paranoid and depraved Republican administration of Bush-Cheney created under the guise of 'Dept. of Homeland Security'. A mind staggering 800,000 employees at top secret clearance or higher, 1,300 new agency offices nationwide. While the percentage of total employees in this Shadow Government to the managers holding Top Secret or higher access is not publically known, it must be 2 to 1 or higher. That would mean 2.4 Million employees or more!

    The 800,000 managers with Top Secret or higher clearance's would easily pull in 100,000 or more each. That would place just their annual federal payroll at a staggering 80 Billion dollars? The total on the books costs for this Shadow Government is 75 Billion dollars! Although it is widely felt the total is perhaps 5x larger or more. Apparently the rest is funneled thru various shadow accounts to hide the true total American taxpayer costs from Congressional oversight.

    At least 2.4 Million employees operating in a ultra-secret Shadow Government network in 1,300 new agency offices across the Nation and setting up each of those 1,300 new agency offices no doubt cost a great deal of American taxpayer dollars as well. Such an enormous secret Shadow Government would normally be dismantled during a peaceful period on the Earth, however my grave concern is that such a Shadow Government would create multiple Wars if none existed.

    July 20, 2010 at 5:08 am |
  7. neel123

    The simple question is, how long will the American tax-payers be willing to bail Pakistan out .......... and what are the compulsions for the Americans to do so .......... ?

    Do the Americans have any plan B for Pakistan ........... or are they willing to wait for some divine intervention for the problem to go away .... !

    The Americans look totally helpless, groping in the dark ........... !

    July 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  8. Smith in Oregon

    Sack loads of free American taxpayer dollars to the tune of many Billions of FREE money to Pakistan is buying America what exactly? More Taliban fighters murdering American and NATO soldiers? More Taliban fighters murdering the Afghanistan people? More Taliban fighters murdering the civilians in nearby India?

    A Lt. General of the Pakistani ISI appears linked to the man that wired large amounts of money to the 9/11 high jackers. The same Lt. General of the ISI met with virtually all of the Bush Administration the week prior to 9/11 and left town the morning of 9/11.

    What exactly are the Billions of free American taxpayer dollars being funneled to Pakistan buying? More weapons and explosives to the Taliban fighters? More black op's to murder India's civilians?

    A silent victim in this yet another massive transfer of American taxpayer dollars is America's senior citizen's programs across America which were slashed to practically non-existent levels recently. Many had worked they entire lives supporting and helping America, now they are treated by the Republican Potty'ticians like disposable trash, a drain on their corporate's special interests, instead of the dignity and respect they truly deserve from all Americans.

    July 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  9. joe bob

    Haas is right. This country can no longer afford it's imperialist ways. No one has been able to do anything with Afghanistan and they never will. In my opinion, we are doing just what Al-queda was shooting for. We seem determined to spend ourselves into bankruptcy to fight these useless wars.

    July 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm |