Kissinger warns on Afghan exit
By Daniel Dombey in Washington
Published: June 29 2010 03:00 | Last updated: June 29 2010 03:00
Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, has warned that Washington's plan to begin handing over responsibility to national forces in Afghanistan in July next year "provides a mechanism for failure".
In an interview with the Financial Times in the wake of President Barack Obama's decision to remove General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Mr Kissinger said the public "must be prepared for a long struggle" in what is already the US's longest war.
Mr Kissinger said Mr Obama needed to rethink the deadline and the way the Afghan strategy had been designed since, in his view, its goals were too ambitious and too focused on a Kabul government with limited influence in the rest of the country.
"[The strategy] needs adaptation to realities," he said, suggesting the task of adapting it would best fall to General David Petraeus, Mr Obama's nomination as Gen McChrystal's successor.
Mr Kissinger added that fighting the Taliban until it was reduced to impotence "would take more time than the American political system would permit".
The Republican's comments come as Gen Petraeus is due to appear before the Senate to be confirmed in his new post. Though confirmation is virtually assured, Republicans say they will push him on the realism of the July 2011 date. Democrats will call for Afghan forces to take on more of the fighting.
While the administration says the rate of the handover will be determined by conditions on the ground, figures such as Joe Biden, vice-president, and Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, have said US troops will start to leave next July.
"The basic premise that you can work towards a national government that can replace the American security effort in a deadline of 12 months provides a mechanism for failure," Mr Kissinger said. "On the other hand, if we are willing to pursue the stated [war] objective the public must be prepared for a long struggle. This is a choice that needs to be made explicitly."
* Nita Lowey, a Democrat who chairs the House appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, vowed yesterday to halt all non-humanitarian aid to Afghanistan after reports that Kabul was blocking corruption investigations and that more than $3bn (€2.4bn, £2bn) had been flown out of Kabul airport during the past three years.
Into the dust, Page 9 Full interview transcript at FT.com / US & Canada - Transcript: Interview with Henry Kissinger
FT.com / Asia-Pacific - Kissinger warns on Afghan exit