US needs to scrap July 2011 Afghan deadline: Curtis

An expert describes the leadership of Gen David Petraues as reassuring.

Washington: Describing the leadership of Gen David Petraues, the American Commander in Afghanistan, as reassuring, a top US expert on South Asia has said President Barack Obama needs to scrap his "arbitrary" deadline of July 2011 for the drawdown of troops from the war-torn country.

"He (Obama) needs to renounce the arbitrary July 2011 withdrawal deadline and remind the American people that if the US departs the region before the situation in Afghanistan is stabilised and the government is capable of resisting the Taliban on its own, the result will be a downward spiral of violence, leading to the eventual collapse of the government and the reassertion of Taliban rule," Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation said.

The Taliban would again be in a position to provide sanctuary to al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups intent on attacking the US and to project their influence back across the border into nuclear-armed Pakistan, she felt.

Curtis said Gen Petraeus` no-nonsense, methodical approach to assessing the US strategy in Afghanistan will be unwelcome to those hoping the American leaders would soon decide that the war is unwinnable and thus begin a rapid drawdown of US troops.

"It will also take the air out of the room for those calling on the US to strike a grand bargain with the Taliban leadership," she said while terming Gen Petraeus` leadership as reassuring.

"Rather than striking an early political deal with the Taliban before the new US counter-insurgency strategy has had time to bear fruit, Petraeus is focussed on `reintegration` of Taliban at the local level.

"His distinction between `reintegration` at the local level and `reconciliation` with the top leadership will be welcomed by the Afghan people, most of whom do not support the Taliban`s ideology but are incapable of resisting them on their own militarily," Curtis said.

Some Afghans worry that "a politically weak" Karzai will seek a deal with the Taliban leadership and Pakistan Army that would sacrifice Afghan national interests - particularly relating to rights of women and ethnic minorities -- to save his own skin, she said.

"The fundamental point is that any reintegration or reconciliation process should not legitimise the Taliban`s ruthless ideology nor allow Afghanistan to backtrack from the gains it has made with regard to human rights and democracy over the last nine years," Curtis said.


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