Albright: Iran nuclear shift shows Obama's policy is working
An interview with the former US secretary of State, in which she discusses Iran, Afghanistan, and the political statements her choice of jewelry makes.
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Albright: They are wrong. But, at the same time, the Central and East Europeans need to be more confident in themselves. Recently I met with some leaders who signed a letter complaining the US was not paying enough attention to them. I told them it was a good thing that their problems have so diminished that they require less US attention.Skip to next paragraph
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Gardels: A big debate is raging in the Obama administration between those who seek a troop increase and nation-building strategy in Afghanistan – counter-insurgency – versus those who seek a more narrow counterterrorism strategy focused solely on fighting Al Qaeda and employing drone attacks. Where do you come down?
Albright: Today's dilemmas, of course, are the result of not paying enough attention to Afghanistan while fighting in Iraq for eight years. So, in a sense, we are starting from scratch there. US national security interests dictate that eliminating Al Qaeda is the primary focus. That means sorting out their relationship with the Taliban and determining what real connection or overlap there is between the two. My own sense is that the lines between the two are very fuzzy – and therefore the lines between counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism are quite unclear.
Rather than positing these strategies as alternatives, what we need to focus on is not creating more terrorists. On the one hand, if the drone or bombing attacks miss their targets and kill a lot of civilians, that creates animosity and recruits terrorists. On the other hand, if you don't provide security for the Afghan people, they are terrified. Out of fear, they will cooperate with the terrorists.
I do think Obama is doing the right thing by weighing his strategy decision carefully. I've always thought it is better to have a confident president than a certain one. A confident president is comfortable enough in his own capacity for judgment to solicit a broad array of opinions from advisers who might disagree.
Gardels: You do seem to fall on the side of a broader commitment in Afghanistan because you want to establish security and stability as a precondition for getting out.
Albright: Neither the US nor NATO can be responsible for Afghanistan for the rest of our lives. The bottom line is that the Afghans have to be able to operate on their own. But we have to help them get there – training the Afghan Army and police forces, as well as providing reconstruction assistance and a viable governing structure. We need to have this debate now so the American public understands what is at stake. Eight years have been wasted and there is no more time to waste. We've got to chart a course and stick to it.
Madeleine Albright is a former US secretary of State. Her new book is entitled "Read My Pins." She spoke with Nathan Gardels on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
© 2009 Global Viewpoint.