Coalitions hold together when members share a mutually reviled Public Enemy #1. In Afghanistan, ours, I guess, is the Taliban--although, as I have written here, the Taliban per se pose no security threat to the United States that can't be eliminated as needed by implementing what MG Paul Vallely (USA ret.) describes as the "lily pad strategy" (which can also take care of Pakistani nukes, he says). The general's point is, defending American interests wherever threats develop requires no troop presence in Afghanistan.
Tragically, however, we have one and it is getting much bigger.
Meanwhile, however, our putative ally Afghanistan has a different Public Enemy #1 in mind--civiliian casualties incurred in our supposedly shared fight against the Taliban.
"It's an important thing that America recognizes that civilian casualties are the biggest concern in Afghanistan and a damage to the effort against terrorists," Hamid Karzai said last week in the States.
That is a problem, as the recently canned commander McKiernan may have discovered if it turns out the US wanted a fall guy for recent casualties. While I am no fan of McKiernan's due to his Islamic suck-uppitry alone, he has obviously been run ragged getting called on the carpet by both Karzai and the White House for civilian casualties that we will probably learn were indeed caused by the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the bigger story than casualties and commanders is Karzai himself -- more specifically, his attitude of detachment from the supposed cause waged on his country's behalf. On CNN's "State of the Union" with John King, Sen Bob Corker (R-TN) had this to say about a recent meeting with the Afghan leader:
"There was just an air of smugness, flippancy when serious questions were asked. I asked about what our mission in Afghanistan ought to be, and I thought that President Karzai's response was a nonresponse. And when I pushed him further, he basically said, 'Look, this is your mission,' which made me feel that our partnership there was not quite I think what Americans would like to see. So my guess is that you're going to see some probing by the Senate and Congress."
Some probing? How about a lot of probing, senator? That is, we're not in Afghanistan for our health, and there is an argument to be made that we are not in Afghanistan for national interest, either. So what are we doing ther for? A big fat nothing. Meanwhile, back in Pakistan, a nuclear arsenal is coming up for grabs....