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Wednesday, Jun 23, 2010, 11:28 am

Obama Fired McChrystal—and Missed a Major Opportunity

By G. Pascal Zachary

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By G. Pascal Zachary

Obama has missed a chance, in firing McChrystal, to re-think his war policies in Afganistan. Instead of a change in course, however, Obama is renewing his committed to a failed approach to ending the war in Afghanistan.

In a single paragraph today, Obama presented the extent of his committment to a costly and counterproductive approach:

So make no mistake. We have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on Al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.

Obama has given Americans a clear and concise metric against which to judge the failure of his policies in Afghanistan. Yet the metric is wrong. Rather than attempt to break the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. should be negotiating a power-sharing government with the Taliban (an approach that Afghanistan's puppet president, Karzai, has endorsed). Rather than building Afghan capacity for carrying out war, the U.S. government should be increasing the capacity for providing social goods essential for peace in the country.

And rather than view Afghanistan as a proxy for the fight against Al Qaeda, Obama should begin to confront Afghanistan and its people on their own terms—and stop the destructive equation of Al Qaeda and Taliban.

G. Pascal Zachary is the author of the memoir Married to Africa: A Love Story and The Diversity Advantage: Multicultural Identity in the New World Economy. From 1989 to 2001, he was a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal. Zachary has contributed articles to In These Times for more than 20 years and edits the blog Africa Works, about the political economy of sub-Saharan Africa.

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