Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

LA Times misunderstands Afghan war

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial today that parses Petraeus’s new emphasis on arming locals in Afghanistan. It concludes that, "The question is how to make sure they remain on the side of the central government." Actually, that gets the issue exactly backwards — and shows how little the editorialist understands the war. The ...

lafrancevi/flickr
lafrancevi/flickr
lafrancevi/flickr

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial today that parses Petraeus's new emphasis on arming locals in Afghanistan. It concludes that, "The question is how to make sure they remain on the side of the central government."

Actually, that gets the issue exactly backwards -- and shows how little the editorialist understands the war. The question Petraeus is actually posing to Karzai is how the central government is going to win over armed villagers. That is why this move is important -- it empowers locals and so gives Petraeus a lever to start challenging the ways of those around Karzai.

News flash for the LA Times: Our biggest problem in Afghanistan isn't the Taliban, it is the corrupt and abusive ways of the Karzai government. The Taliban is a byproduct of that behavior. (And yeah, our second biggest problem is the Pakistani government.)

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial today that parses Petraeus’s new emphasis on arming locals in Afghanistan. It concludes that, "The question is how to make sure they remain on the side of the central government."

Actually, that gets the issue exactly backwards — and shows how little the editorialist understands the war. The question Petraeus is actually posing to Karzai is how the central government is going to win over armed villagers. That is why this move is important — it empowers locals and so gives Petraeus a lever to start challenging the ways of those around Karzai.

News flash for the LA Times: Our biggest problem in Afghanistan isn’t the Taliban, it is the corrupt and abusive ways of the Karzai government. The Taliban is a byproduct of that behavior. (And yeah, our second biggest problem is the Pakistani government.)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.