That's not a partisan outfit, "The Economist".
TAPPER: This is one other topic which Rahm talked about, which was the war in Afghanistan. And, Richard, I read a story in "The New York Times" this week that I was very interested in getting your take on. It is about Afghan President Hamid Karzai's skepticism about the U.S. campaign. In the story it says, "Mr. Karzai had lost faith in the Americans and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan. 'The president of Afghanistan has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,' the former director of the Afghan intelligence service said an interview."
Richard, if Karzai doesn't have confidence in the U.S. campaign, should we?
HAASS: The short answer is I think there is reason to have real doubts. The administration has a very ambitious policy in Afghanistan. It is to create conditions by building up our forces and training the Afghanistan so that we can leave, and the Afghans essentially become self sustaining. I think the odds of that being realized are extremely small. To build up a strong state is very un-Afghan. You have sanctuaries in Pakistan. Karzai is an incredibly flawed leader. To separate the Pashtuns from the Taliban is very tough. I don't think this is going to work.
I'm also not sure it is worth it. There is nothing unique about Afghanistan in terms of being a place for terrorists to operate. It doesn't necessarily hold the future to Pakistan. Pakistan does-we have real problems in places like North Korea and Iran. That is where we should be focusing. So, I think, the United States in some ways needs to listen to Karzai. We need to move faster. So, when July 2011 comes around it ought not to be a faux draw down. It ought to be real. We ought to take out sizable numbers of troops. We ought to try and negotiate a deal with those Taliban leaders who are willing to work with us on guidelines, say that they won't allow Al Qaida back in.
But essentially, this is an expensive, in terms human life, financially and militarily; this is an expensive investment. But it is also a strategic distraction. This ought not to be where the United States uses its limited resources in the world.
WILL: Well, part of the problem is that counter insurgency, as defined by General Petraeus, who literally wrote the book, the manual on this, involves protecting the population, in order to win their affections. The problem with that is, that it requires rules of engagement, that put our own forces in danger.
TAPPER: In fact, you-if I could interrupt you?
TAPPER: To quote you, you have a column today in "The Washington Post" called "Futility in Afghanistan", in which you quote an officer explaining why the rules of engagement for U.S. troops are too prohibitive for Coalition force to achieve sustained tactical success". I'm sorry.
WILL: He talked about his particular unit and they were reluctant to grant air support, even artillery, even a smoke canister fired up, so they can disguise their own movements, an illumination canister in order to illuminate where the enemy is, because they canister falls to earth and it might hurt someone. That is fine. You want to minimize casualties, but you are putting your own forces at risk.