Obama Team Downplays Risks in Afghan Pullback

Al-Qaeda, Taliban much closer than public has been led to believe
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2009 11:57 AM CDT
Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq, right, is seen with leader of Pakistani Taliban movement Hakimullah Mehsud in Sararogha in Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan along Afghanistan border.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – US military and intelligence officials see dangerous misrepresentations in the Obama team’s flirting with a limited, anti-al-Qaeda strategy in Afghanistan. “The White House is downplaying the dangers of doing the only thing that they think Congress and the public will support,” an official tells McClatchy. But taking the focus off of the Taliban may make al-Qaeda stronger as the two groups are even closer now than in 2001.

What’s more, a Taliban with free rein in Afghanistan could radically destabilize the region to the detriment of US interests. “The Indo-Pakistan issue looms like a dark cloud on a horizon that might look clear blue,” another official says, “but it is actually a tidal wave that is rushing in.” And don’t forget the damage to US prestige and credibility if we cede Afghanistan, insiders add. “Here we go again,” an official says, comparing the Obama administration’s defense of a “minimalist policy” to the Bush administration’s tortured rationale for the invasion of Iraq.