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Friday, 6 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 06 Feb 09


India asks LTTE to give up arms
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
In a clear attempt to mollify its DMK ally in Tamil Nadu, the UPA government today expressed concern over the loss of innocent lives in the ongoing conflict in the island nation and appealed to the LTTE to allow the civilian population to proceed to the safety zone.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram asked the LTTE to lay down arms and come to the negotiating table while urging Colombo to suspend hostilities.

“We are deeply anguished at the loss of lives. We are not happy that the Sri Lankan government has resumed hostilities. It is for both sides to cease hostilities,” Chidambaram told reporters here.

Replying to questions, he said the Sri Lankan government must suspend hostilities and the LTTE must lay down arms. “This must happen simultaneously. It requires both hands to clap,” he said.

The External Affairs Minister recalled that he had recently visited Colombo after which President Mahinda Rajapaksa had announced a two-day ceasefire so as to allow the LTTE release civilians to shift to safer places. “We are concerned about the plight of the civilians…we will appeal to the LTTE to allow the civilians to move to safer places.”

Mukherjee was of the view that ultimately a political settlement would have to be found in the island nation, based on the devolution package of 1987 and the 13th amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

The situation in Sri Lanka, where a large civilian population has been caught in the ongoing war between the military and the LTTE, has been a major issue in Tamil Nadu, where all political parties have demanded that India must intervene to mitigate the sufferings of the innocent civilians.

Meanwhile, Norwegian “peace negotiator” on Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, today met Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry to discuss the deteriorating situation in the island nation.

Later, he told reporters that both the government forces and the LTTE must end the hostilities and come to the negotiating table in the interest of peace in the island nation.

Arms Sales to Pakistan Like Whiskey to an Alcoholic: Menon

New Delhi
Seeking to intensify international pressure on Pakistan over the Mumbai terror strikes, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon has urged the world to discontinue arms sale to Pakistan which is unrelated to anti-terror operations and underlined that any such aid is like “giving whiskey to an alcoholic".

Amid media reports suggesting that Pakistan's internal probe is zeroing in on a Bangladesh link to the Mumbai terror attacks, Menon repeated that the strikes were planned and launched from Pakistan and underlined that the organizers were "creations of the ISI".

“For India, a stable Pakistan at peace with itself is a desirable goal. We need a peaceful periphery in our own interest, and will work with all those in Pakistan and the international community who further that goal,” Menon told Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (IFRI), a leading French think tank, in Paris Wednesday.

“Given the fragile and unfinished nature of the polity beside us, there is much that the international community can do to help,” Menon said while underscoring that “the epicenter of international terrorism” lay in Pakistan.

“For instance, arms sales to Pakistan totally unrelated to the fight against terrorism or extremism are like whiskey to an alcoholic, a drug reinforcing an addiction, skewing the internal political balance, and making the consolidation of democracy more difficult,” he stressed.

“Those responsible for the Mumbai attacks follow an ideology that recognizes no borders, and are known to be preparing attacks not only just in the neighborhood but across the world,” he stressed.

Menon is in Paris for annual foreign office consultations between the two countries, official sources said here. Menon held talks with diplomatic adviser to French President Jean-David Levitte and senior French diplomats on a host of bilateral and global issues.

Nearly a month after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Pakistan's official agencies were complicit in the Mumbai attacks, Menon pointed a finger at the ISI's involvement in the attacks.

“In each case the perpetrators planned, trained and launched their attacks from Pakistan, and the organizers were and remain clients and creations of the ISI,” he said while alluding to the bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul and the Mumbai mayhem.

He also reiterated that there was no response from Pakistan to 26/11 dossier presented by India a month ago, a point reinforced in New Delhi by Home Minister P. Chidamabaram Thursday.

“Two months after the Mumbai attacks, and one month after we presented a dossier of evidence linking the attacks to elements in Pakistan, we still await a response from the Pakistani authorities, and prevarication continues,” Menon said.

He also drew the attention of the French to interlinked problems of “terrorism, clandestine nuclear proliferation, extremism and radicalism” that had their source in Pakistan.

He also linked the instability and violence in Afghanistan to “the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan".

“For Afghanistan to regain peace, the roots of international terrorism in parts of Pakistan and its local sponsors will have to be eliminated,” he said.

Mumbai Heat
Share probe outcome with India, Pak told
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
Appreciating the patience and restraint exercised by India in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today firmly asked Pakistan to conduct a thorough investigation into the strikes and share the outcome with New Delhi.

Ban, who was here for a summit on sustainable development, called on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee at the South Block here and discussed a wide range of issues, including the regional situation with particular reference to India-Pakistan ties.

Official sources said India shared with the UN chief the details of its investigations, which clearly suggested the involvement of elements in Pakistan in the attacks.

Mukherjee told Ban that India wanted Pakistan to take ‘credible, transparent and verifiable’ action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attacks. He also drew attention of the UN chief to the outrage in India over the Mumbai attacks.

Ban, sharing the sentiments of Mukherjee, briefed him on his discussions with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad, where he asked Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani to fully cooperate with India in investigating the Mumbai attacks.

The Indian minister said Pakistan did not appear to be serious about its investigations as was evident from reports appearing in the media, suggesting that it was trying to delink itself from the attacks.

Armed forces carry out joint exercise off Gujarat coast

PTI | February 06, 2009 | 01:36 IST

With the November 26 terror strikes exposing the vulnerabilities of India's coastline, the country's armed forces are carrying out a week-long joint exercise off the Gujarat coast in which they would validate concepts to counter such threats in the future.

Defence Ministry sources told PTIon Thursdayday that the amphibious exercise would use the assets and personnel of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard, and practice manoeuvres and operations to prevent terrorist attacks of the Mumbai-kind.

"Considering that the Mumbai attacks took the sea route to reach their targets, we have included an operational
element in the exercise to fight the menace," sources said.

Christened TROPEX-09 (Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise), this effort would be one of the largest exercises involving amphibious warfare elements in the recent years.

Though such exercises are an annual affair, this year's exercise gained importance in content and magnitude in view of
the Mumbai attacks, sources said.

Nearly 15,000 personnel of the armed forces would be trained in fighting "conventional as well as asymmetric" warfare, involving non-state actors, sources said. Defence Ministry sources said the Army was being represented by infantry and mechanised forces troops and they would simulate an attack on a land-based target. These troops would be launched from a naval vessel off the coast.

The Navy was utilising its major surface platforms including Delhi-class destroyers, Talwar-class missile frigates and Kilo-class submarines during the exercise, sources said.

Its aircraft carrier did not join the exercise as it is currently undergoing a lifespan-enhancing refit and repair programme at Cochin Shipyard.

The Navy's aerial elements including Tupulovs, Il-38s maritime reconnaissance aircraft, Dornier medium range surveillance aircraft, Kamov and Seaking helicopters, along with the Coast Guard air elements were participating in the war game.

The Air Force chipped in with its only maritime squadron comprising Jaguar fighters based in Jamnagar in Gujarat, would fly sorties during the exercise to provide aerial support and cover to naval assets, sources said.

Gujarat was chosen for the exercise as the Mumbai attackers had sneaked into the megapolis by sailing on a Pakistani boat along the state's coast, sources said.

Sri Lanka Rejects Talks With LTTE Rebels, Seizes Base (Update3)

By Jay Shankar and Paul Tighe

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka rejected talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam after the country’s international donors, led by the U.S., called on the rebels to find a political solution to end the 26-year-old conflict.

“We are demanding unconditional surrender of arms,” Keheliya Rambukwella, a cabinet minister and defense spokesman said in a telephone interview from the capital, Colombo, today. The government, over the past three decades, has given enough opportunities to the LTTE to engage in discussions, he said.

“Going ahead with any kind of talks will not be meaningful,” Rambukwella said. The LTTE is committed to the gun and the bullet and has never shown any flexibility, he said.

Sri Lanka is offering an amnesty to rebels who surrender, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told Parliament today, Agence France-Presse reported. Repeated calls to government spokesman, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, went unanswered.

Sri Lanka’s army says it has driven the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for a separate Tamil homeland, from their main bases into an area of less than 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) in the northeast. The fighting is causing a humanitarian crisis among an estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in combat zones, the United Nations and aid groups say.

Wounded Civilians

The U.S., Japan, the European Union and Norway, on Feb. 3 called on the government and the Tamil Tigers to declare a “no- fire” period to allow the evacuation of sick and wounded civilians. The LTTE should lay down arms and engage in talks with the government, the international donors said.

India’s Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram today echoed that call, saying his government is “deeply” concerned about the plight of civilians caught in conflict zones.

Sri Lankan warplanes today destroyed an LTTE command center and a rebel leader’s hideout in Puthukkudiyiruppu in northeastern Mullaitivu district, the Defense Ministry said. The rebel group’s last naval base was captured in northeastern Chalai region, the government said.

The deputy leader of the rebel’s naval suicide bombing unit and three other senior members were killed in gun battles in Chalai yesterday, the ministry said in a statement. Nine other rebels were killed in separate firefights yesterday in the region.

A rebel communications center in Mullaitivu was also targeted in air raids today, the Media Centre for National Security said. The LTTE hasn’t commented on the fighting.

Suicide Bombers

The military said soldiers captured the largest training base for Tamil Tiger suicide bombers yesterday. Evidence suggests that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, frequently visited the base where “LTTE human bombs were hosted with their ‘final dinner of death,’” the Defense Ministry said.

The LTTE was the first to use female suicide bombers and develop explosive belts and vests, the U.S. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism said in a 2006 report.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in an Independence Day speech yesterday, said the LTTE will be defeated within “a few days” and the country freed from the “dark shadow of terrorism.”

Tamils demonstrated in European cities yesterday demanding an end to the conflict, AFP reported. More than 10,000 people gathered outside the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, calling on the world body to secure a cease-fire while 10,000 rallied in Paris and 5,000 in Berlin.

The government accused the LTTE of bringing artillery into safe zones declared for civilians while Tamils say the army is carrying out indiscriminate shelling of the areas.

Cluster Bombs

Cluster bombs were used in Mullaitivu yesterday, Gordon Weiss, a UN spokesman, said in Colombo. The hospital in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu was evacuated after being repeatedly shelled, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement yesterday. At least 52 civilians were killed by shells and air strikes in the area two days ago, Weiss said.

The government has denied using cluster munitions, which release dozens of “bomblets” over a wide area. An international ban is sought under a treaty known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has 95 signatories. China, Russia and the U.S. have not signed.

Amnesty International denounced any use of cluster bombs, describing it as a war crime.

“There has been no accountability on either side for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the conflict,” it said in an e-mailed statement today.

The government said that aircraft and helicopters undertook raids yesterday and the day before on rebel “resistance points” south and southeast of Puthukkudiyiruppu. The air strikes hit targets accurately, causing losses to the LTTE, the government’s Media Centre for National Security said.

All patients and medical staff at the hospital have been shifted to a safer location to the north, the government said. “There are no hospitals functioning” in the conflict zones in the northeast, according to the statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jay Shankar in Bangalore at jshankar1@bloomberg.net; Paul Tighe in Sydney at ptighe@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: February 5, 2009 09:33 EST

General Dynamics focuses on India’s defence market

February 5th, 2009 - 9:58 pm ICT by IANS

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) Eyeing India’s Rs.1.4 trillion ($30 billion) military hardware pie, US-based, General Dynamics, a global leader in providing defence-related information and communication systems, combat vehicles, munitions, weapon systems, special-mission aircraft and commercial space-related systems, Thursday announced the opening of its liaison office here.”The liaison office will provide assistance and information to potential Indian customers as well as facilitate meetings among representatives of General Dynamics, the government of India and potential partners,” a company statement said.

Speaking on the occasion, William O. Schmieder, General Dynamics vice president (International) said: “As India addresses its future defence and security requirements, General Dynamics is eager to become a partner in meeting the needs of the Indian armed forces and other elements of the government of India and identify opportunities where our expertise may be of value in meeting India’s objectives.

“Our office in India will provide local representation and pursue opportunities to supply defence-related products and services to the government of India,” Schmieder added.

Newly appointed country head Subimal Bhattacharjee, a widely recognized expert on cyber security and critical infrastructure protection, will direct the liaison office.

“He will have responsibility for supporting the full range of General Dynamics business pursuits in India,” the statement said.

“He will work to establish a strong local presence and working relationships with the Indian government and forge industry partnerships to strengthen General Dynamics’ ability to pursue business opportunities in India,” it added.

“General Dynamics is currently pursuing opportunities in India in the areas of communications, specialized vehicles for the defence and paramilitary forces, armaments, ammunition, rugged computing, naval systems and special mission aircraft,” the statement said.

The $29 billion company has four main business segments, the largest of which is the Information Systems and Technology group. This group provides systems integration expertise, hardware and software products and support services in three principal markets: tactical and strategic mission systems, information technology and mission services, and intelligence mission systems.

Among the company’s notable products are the US Army’s M1 Abrams main battle tank, Stryker infantry combat vehicle, the US Marine Corps’ expeditionary fighting vehicle, Virginia-class submarines, the littoral combat ship, the TAK-E combat-logistics ship and the Gulfstream business jet.

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, the company employs approximately 92,300 people worldwide.

RESPONSE: The future war —Shahzad Chaudhry

Nations going to war must have clearly stated strategic objectives, and then make a choice of their most appropriate instrument of application to achieve those objectives. Efficiency and efficacy are the two golden principles in application of force, which act as force multipliers

Ejaz Haider, in his article “Air Power Alone?” (Daily Times, February 3), has complemented well the missing links in my article “Was India ready for war?” (Daily Times, February 2).

The ‘air power alone’ debate is an old one, initiated immediately after a novel and sustained air campaign of around four weeks in Iraq during the first Gulf War that facilitated General Schwarzkopf’s famous 100-hour annihilating ground war and brought the until then credible Iraqi army and the Revolutionary Guards to their knees.

The second Gulf War, begun in 2003 with expanded objectives and fought on the lines of traditional land-based strategy, continues till date with the United States looking for ways to end its embroilment.

For the ‘traditionalists’, it must be stated that use of air power in this war has been mostly in a supporting role. Long land wars are messy and difficult to extricate from. These types of wars embroil and enmesh, but still need to be fought sometimes. Usually, extrication is difficult and not without compromising on the initial objectives.

Two other clarifications are in order: one, air power cannot hold ground even if it can get the ground vacated — you always need “boots on the ground” to hold ground; and second, to answer Haider’s query, no, wars — and we are talking real wars as in the Indo-Pak mode — cannot be won with air power alone.

That said, let’s for the moment put aside the erstwhile Yugoslavian conflict or the Kosovo experience, though these are but perhaps the most avid examples of how the nature of conflict has changed. And yes, all around, the nature of conflict has changed, even if we do not wish to alter the balance of how we employ force. The weight of emphasis in any future war will be a lot different than what we are used to, and I hope we can imbibe this lesson the soonest for our own benefit, away from defining the dominant strategy that will govern future wars.

Now to the issue at hand.

Nations apply the military instrument with a clear strategic objective: capture of spaces, destruction of opposing forces, or, increasingly in the modern wars, coercion of the adversary into conformal behaviour. The last of these strategic objectives as a contemporary goal of war creates the manifestation of ‘pain and punishment’. At times both space and destruction can be implicit, but this is halfway treatment without real legs; destruction to weaken the adversary is the real motive.

The Arab-Israeli War of 1973 stands witness to this theory, except for Golan. Recent forays into Lebanon and Gaza by Israel also support the contention that universally the occupation of land becomes difficult to sustain. Iraq will soon prove the point, while the jury on Afghanistan is still out.

‘Parallel application’ in air strategy — as proffered by John Warden, the modern day Liddlehart, not sufficiently rewarded by his own country, the US — was the means to an end-state of ‘strategic paralysis’, that being the strategic objective of his notion of the United States’ air power application.

So, parallel application is not a ‘theoretical’ model only; it is the practice in all air forces of any consequence. And, no, you do not need to be an air force like the USAF to be able to practice the concept; any air force can partake of this model to its capacity. The size and the extent can be varied to conform to the needs.

Haider alludes to it well when he talks of the centre of gravity, and its various levels. These ‘centres’ in size and enormity correspond to the objectives defined within the achievable domain of an applying force.

The concept of ‘supremacy’ or ‘superiority’ is a relative function. Each level of this state must be incidental per se since the aim is not to hold conquered air space. The notion is transitional in nature and any attempt to give it permanence in the tradition of conquering land is actually an entirely wasteful activity. Analogous to applying force to achieve a purpose, airspace too is needed by an air force to do something, and when that something is done, it becomes a useless stretch of air.

Historically, this is what the convention has been tied to, a linear cycle of achievement of various stages with an unaccountable quantity being wasted in gaining superiority. The same effort on the back of transitional supremacy or superiority could actually be used to inflict unsustainable ‘pain and punishment’.

In the case of what may be termed as defensive air superiority, the denial of air space to the offending force, one may desire sustainability, but that again must only be on need basis; hence the reason for sound and modern air defence capacity.

But let me refer again to the Sri Lankan example, where despite supremacy in quantifiable terms, particularly within the defence domain, the LTTE Zlins always found a way in. This example may never be trivialised; it is the essence of air warfare. So when Pakistan says that any surgical strike shall be responded to, it has all the assurance of sound professional qualification. The rest is left to the pain threshold for each side to consider.

Is parallel application as a notion restricted to air power alone? I do not think so. In fact, even a street fighter with multiple objectives may employ the concept based on his speed, flexibility, range and lethality, since soon the people around will separate the two warring sides. The variations shall always be in relativity.

That is why nations going to war must have clearly stated strategic objectives, and then make a choice of their most appropriate instrument of application to achieve those objectives. Efficiency and efficacy are the two golden principles in application of force, which act as force multipliers.

The writer is a retired air vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and a former ambassador. He can be contacted at shahzad.a.chaudhry@gmail.com

Don't Escalate in Afghanistan

Editorial

President Barack Obama has wisely ordered an internal review of the administration's options in Afghanistan before proceeding with the current plan to send 30,000 more troops, which would nearly double the 32,000 fighting there. For the sake of the country, his presidency and the peace and stability of South Asia, Obama should take US-led military escalation off the table. Instead he should focus on devising a regional strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and strengthen Pakistan. Escalating the occupation of Afghanistan would bleed us of the resources we need for economic recovery, further destabilize Pakistan, open a rift with our European allies and negate the positive effects of withdrawing from Iraq on our image in the Muslim world. Escalation would have all these negative consequences without securing a better future for the Afghan people or increasing US security.

The prize, an original drawing by Edward Sorel, is awarded to Kristen Wack. Here is what she thinks Bush should do in retirement, along with some other ideas.

There's no denying that the situation has deteriorated over the past few years; the Taliban now threaten to take over large parts of Afghanistan. But more US forces will not bring stability. We are losing the war not because we have had too few troops but because our presence has turned the Afghan people against us, swelling the ranks of the Taliban.

Any good will the US military once enjoyed has long since been destroyed by airstrikes that have killed civilians. Human Rights Watch reports that at least 321 Afghan civilians died in NATO or US air raids in 2007. According to the UN, many more were killed the following year. Sending more troops will not win back the hearts and minds of their loved ones. The conspicuous corruption of the Karzai government has also taken a toll. The United States is now viewed as propping up an unpopular regime that New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins describes as seeming "to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it," and "contributing to the collapse of public confidence...and to the resurgence of the Taliban."

Adding 30,000 troops might be enough to keep the government from falling in the short term, but it will not be nearly enough to wage the kind of counterinsurgency some Obama advisers advocate. For that, some military experts estimate, we may need as many as 600,000. But even a force one-quarter that size would be an immense burden on the US economy, given our debt from the financial crisis. It would almost certainly mean the postponement, if not the end, of Obama's proposals for universal healthcare and a green economy.

It is doubtful that even a major counterinsurgency could succeed. Indeed, it may only engender more resistance and encourage support for the Taliban in Pakistan to stop what would be seen as the advancement of US and Indian interests. If we learned anything from the British and the Soviets, it is that Afghans fiercely resist outside powers and that some in Pakistan are eager to prevent outsiders from controlling its neighbor, especially if those outsiders have good relations with India. Afghanistan is called "the burial ground of empires" for good reason.

In recent Congressional testimony Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed to rule out the more ambitious goal of stabilizing Afghanistan, suggesting instead the narrower goal of preventing it from being a launching pad for terrorism. But he acknowledged even that would require more troops. Gates did not explain why he would commit more troops to keep Afghanistan from being a terrorist haven when Al Qaeda already operates freely in parts of Pakistan and when the Taliban and Islamist terror groups have sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas. Indeed, the effect of military operations in Afghanistan has been to push Islamists across the border into the tribal areas and Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

The key to defeating Al Qaeda and its extremist protectors lies with the Pakistani government and its ability to control its remote territories. But there's the rub: major groups within Pakistan's military and intelligence services are reluctant to act against Pakistan's extremists for fear it would help the United States and India gain control over Afghanistan. Thus military escalation would likely counter our efforts to get Pakistan's government to secure its territory against Al Qaeda. Worse, expanding the war may only deepen divisions in Pakistan and further weaken its fragile democratic government. Even if US escalation achieves the limited goal of denying Al Qaeda a presence in Afghanistan, it could lead to the destabilization of Pakistan, with devastating implications for regional and international security. As Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and professor of history and international relations at Boston University, recently wrote, "To risk the stability of that nuclear-armed state in the vain hope of salvaging Afghanistan would be a terrible mistake."

By any measure, the disintegration of nuclear Pakistan would pose a much greater threat to our national security than would the continued presence of Al Qaeda in remote border areas. In fact, the value of Afghanistan and Pakistan as Al Qaeda safe havens is greatly exaggerated. Pakistan's tribal areas are of limited use in training extremists to blend into US society or learn how to fly airplanes or make explosives (most of the planning for the 9/11 attacks took place in Germany and Florida, not Afghanistan). Nor is this remote, isolated area a good location for directing a terror campaign, recruiting members or threatening global commerce. That is why Al Qaeda is a decentralized network whose leaders in Pakistan can offer little more than moral support and encouragement. American safety thus depends not on eliminating these faraway safe havens but on common-sense counterterrorist and security measures--intelligence cooperation, police work, border control and the occasional surgical use of special forces to disrupt imminent terrorist attacks.

Instead of more troops, we need a regional diplomatic strategy aimed at replacing the US-led NATO occupation with a multinational coalition that would bring about a power-sharing arrangement and new governing structure. This would include more moderate elements of the Taliban who reject Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and would help enforce a halt to the violence. Such a plan would have a better chance of isolating Al Qaeda in Pakistan and giving that country's government the space it needs to take on extremists.

It won't be easy for an international coalition to stabilize Afghanistan, but it will have a better chance if it has few US fingerprints. Therefore, Obama should make clear that this regional strategy envisions withdrawing troops and reconstituting the mission under UN, not NATO, auspices. We may associate Afghanistan with 9/11, but actually it now poses a regional problem, not a US security threat. It is inextricably tied to the geopolitics of Central and South Asia; its problems must be solved by the region's powers, albeit with our diplomatic and financial contributions to development and reconstruction. Progress in stabilizing Afghanistan depends on progress on Pakistani-Indian relations. It also depends on constructive involvement by Iran, which has an interest in tamping down the narcotics trade and in preventing a return of the Taliban. China and Russia have interests in Afghanistan, too, and can contribute to its reconstruction.

Including these regional powers in a multinational coalition and providing it with diplomatic support will not be easy. But it is a task more worthy of President Obama's pledge to make the United States a respected world leader again than sending more young men and women to die in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, which would make this Obama's war. The decision he makes in the coming weeks about Afghanistan will tell us a lot about whether his presidency will succeed in restoring America or will fall victim to a futile war in a distant land.

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