President Obama spent a few hours in Kabul overnight, which is not my idea of a weekend road trip, but YMMV. He met with President Hamid Karzai and delivered the same message of anti-corruption and curtailing poppy production that he preached in his December message escalating the war. Seemingly, this trip was scheduled as part of his visit to Indonesia and Australia, which was postponed last week because of the health care legislation.
It comes at a time when US troop deaths in Afghanistan in the first three months of the year have doubled their rate since the previous year. We hear precious little abut the war in Afghanistan when Presidents don’t visit the war zone, and the national debate over escalation was remarkably narrow and thin. Casualties expect to uptick even more with the imminent battle for Kandahar, and yet even that has not roused any attention toward Afghanistan in the national media.
Renewed efforts by Pakistani military and intelligence forces to take on Taliban fighters in their own country, and scattered talk of reconciliation from commanders and the central government have renewed hopes of an eventual end to the fighting. But that seems a ways off, and US efforts to round up the Taliban may be undercutting the plans by Karzai to make peace with some of the more moderate elements. Nobody has sufficiently explained why close to 100,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan or the logic behind the “safe havens” argument that suggests the Taliban would usher in the same elements into Afghanistan that led to their dismissal in 2001.
It would be nice if Obama’s visit sparked anything resembling a debate over Afghanistan, but in this stage of history, Americans appear to like their wars out of sight and out of mind.