As America’s Afghan War Policy Collapses, Gates May Be Next

On Thursday, July 1, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahedd made the following statement to the BBC: "We do not want to talk to anyone – not to [President Hamid] Karzai, nor to any foreigners – till the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan." The statement went on to say: "We are certain that we are winning. Why should we talk if we have the upper hand and the foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?"
This was the Afghan insurgency's reply to the presumption articulated this week in trial balloons released in Washington, London, Islamabad and Kabul that Taliban would fall in line behind any diplomatic or strategic initiatives determined by the four powers. Some Americans sources appeared to adopt the premise that Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the Pakistani army chief, was in a position to reel in the Taliban, or at least one of its major networks, the one headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, for negotiations to end the war.
There was also speculation that the United States and the Taliban were both plunged in internal debates over the shape of eventual reconciliation.
On Sunday, June 27, CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an interview on ABC: "We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation – where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce al-Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society."

Rumors of imminent negotiations detrimental to field combat

These trial kites had the immediate consequence of a rush to formulate exit timelines by the various NATO heads of government taking part in the war. British Prime Minister David Cameron, for instance, spoke of a swift termination of the mission served by British troops in Afghanistan.
But in the field, their effect was detrimental. Taliban attacks were redoubled and Allied losses mounted steadily, as field commanders tried to brush aside the reports of impending negotiations to end the war and struggled to focus on fighting it.
On June 30, while testifying to the US Senate for his confirmation as new Afghan war commander, Gen. David Petraeus tried to play down reports that the US military would start pulling out of Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 as pledged by President Barak Obama. As he prepared to take over from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus gave his listeners the impression of a less than cut-and-dried war situation.
In London, too, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said Thursday, July 1, that British troops would be among the last international forces to leave Afghanistan, thereby contradicting his prime minister.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that Gen. Petraeus and Fox have set about trying to stabilize the military situation in the field and stop the rumor mills busy predicting that a negotiated end to the war is around the corner.

Clean sweep of NATO war leaders afoot

They are both aware that Gen. McChrystal's dismissal and the "early resignation" of the UK's top soldier, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, are the first steps in a major sweep of the politicos and generals running the war in NATO capitals.
Whispers in Washington were this week circling around US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as the next prominent figure associated with the Afghanistan war on his way out.
Leaks of his opposition to McChrystal's dismissal did not surprise anyone in Washington although it was quickly followed by his statement of support for the President's decision. Gates certainly understands that Obama has embarked on a major reshuffle of top US military, political and security officials running the Afghan war.
Friday, June 25, Gates stood alongside Donald Rumsfeld, his predecessor as secretary of defense, for the unveiling of the latter's portrait in the Pentagon hall. In his speech of commendation, the secretary scarcely mentioned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving his audience wondering if they were watching a rerun of the November 2006 scene when President George W. Bush compelled Rumsfeld to resign.

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