’This Is No Longer a War of Necessity’

Richard Haass considers new approaches to the war in Afghanistan and emphasizes the importance of Pakistan is curtailing terrorism.

October 02, 2009

To help readers better understand the nuances of foreign policy, CFR staff writers and Consulting Editor Bernard Gwertzman conduct in-depth interviews with a wide range of international experts, as well as newsmakers.

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Wars and Conflict

SPIEGEL: A memo written by the US commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, was recently leaked in which he asks the American people for more patience and US President Barack Obama for more troops. Isn’t it rather unusual for US generals to put so much pressure on the president?

Richard Haass: It is fine for generals and civilians to ask for more resources. One of their responsibilities is to speak truth to power if they think they need more resources to accomplish the mission. To do that in public is not appropriate, though. The president deserves to have these issues debated in private. Whoever leaked General McChrystal’s memorandum, acted unfairly and unprofessionally.

SPIEGEL: But should Obama follow this advice?

Haass: It would be premature to follow it at the moment. First, we need to be more confident that doing more militarily in Afghanistan will produce more results. It is not clear that will be the case. Secondly, we need to challenge the assumption that what happens in Afghanistan is critical for the global effort against terrorism.

SPIEGEL: Isn’t that effort doomed if Afghanistan remains a safe haven for terrorists? That is why the West invaded the country, after all.

Haass: That is not clear either. Even if terrorists were to be denied Afghanistan, they could operate out of other countries.


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