Must be a scheduling coincidence.
According to the Washington Post, Afghan officials outlined their strategy to the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, including representatives from the Afghan government, UN, America, and other major troop contributing countries.
The board is to finalize programs to be presented at the Jan. 28 conference in London, one day after President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address. Another coincidence.
The plan goes into detail on ways to manage corruption and build up the Afghan army and police force, all good in theory except for how long the tasks will take. The plan, provided its approved at the London Conference, is due to be reassessed after 2011, perfect for his re-election campaign in 2012.
But the real buzz is Taliban reintegration.
The draft states, “The government will provide the Taliban and other insurgent groups who wish to respect the constitution a dignified way to renounce violence and peacefully reintegrate into their communities and separate themselves from their past. The rank-and-file Taliban are not al-Qaeda, they are our neighbors and cousins, and to achieve peace we need only remove their reason to fight.”
Gates is fully behind Taliban reintegration - after he shocks and awes them.
“Reconciliation has to be a part of the ultimate conclusion here, just as it was in Iraq,” he said on his E-4B plane, en route to New Delhi, Islamabad, and Kabul. “Whether that could include Mullah Omar, I frankly question whether that's realistic."
How nice of him to ask. The Washington Post reports,
“The international community has said key Taliban leaders like Mullah Mohammed Omar would not be part of any reintegration plan. However, the draft, which was being discussed at Wednesday's meeting, does offer "key leaders of the Taliban movement" an opportunity for amnesty and reintegration.Underneath these motions lies direct White House-Omar negotiations, mediated by Saudi Arabia and facilitated through special envoy Richard Holbrooke, and Afghan ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
Central to the plan will be a Grand Peace Council, hat will include representation by all aspects of Afghanistan's society, including religious leaders, with the purpose of giving armed opponents a guarantee that their views will be heard.”
So what is real?
Gates doesn’t want any Taliban on a Grand Peace Council let alone Mullah Omar and is trying to blunt their momentum. Karzai and the White House will butt heads over how deep Taliban reintegration goes if Gates’ opinion prevails. And since Gates helped mold the Taliban into an empire killer, Obama might assume he knows how to get rid of them.
Gates sounds like he wants to kill as many foot soldiers as possible before the game ends. Upon touching down in New Delhi, Gates quickly went to work preempting an Afghan peace proposal and threatening West Asia.
"The success of any one of these groups leads to new capabilities and new reputations for all these groups," Gates said. "A victory for one is a victory for all. It is very complicated situation; it is dangerous for the region as a whole. They are a syndicate of terrorist operators, intending to destabilize the whole region."
This doesn’t sound like Afghanistan’s idea of reintegration.
Fresh off Holbrooke’s claim that America will stay out of Indian-Pakistan relations, Gates said, "Clearly one of the subjects of discussion for my next visit is how to ally their [Pakistan’s] concerns, so they can focus on what has become a real existential threat to Pakistan, these different terrorist groups operating in its territory.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “He signaled that he intended to try to help reduce Pakistani anxiety over India, to help Islamabad continue its focus on the militant threat.”
Gates does so by suggesting, “The syndicate of terror is operating to destabilize the region... not just Afghanistan, not just Pakistan, but potentially the whole region by provoking a conflict perhaps between India and Pakistan through some provocative act.”
"It's important to recognize the magnitude of the threat that the entire region faces,” Gates said in New Delhi after meeting with Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony. "I think it is not unreasonable to assume Indian patience would be limited were there to be further attacks.”
Very reassuring. Who again did you say wants to destabilize the region?
Kill Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership or block them from reconciliation, stir up fear by threatening regional chaos, warn of ”some provocative act,” and that India might not hold back on Pakistan after Mumbai. By design he didn’t have to say nuclear weapons.
This is what’s real to Secretary Gates, the seeds of war to sprout during his journey.