Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warns Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama not to make the same mistake the Soviet Union made more than 20 years ago when it deployed more troops in Afghanistan only to suffer a disastrous military defeat.
“It is important for U.S. policy in general – and for Obama more specifically – to recognize that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution,” Brzezinski tells The Financial Times.
Brzezinski, an Obama supporter, offered his advice on the heels of Obama's trip to Afghanistan this weekend, where the senator from Illinois is calling for a more concerted effort to focus resources and more troops in Afghanistan.
“We are running the risk of repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made,” Brzezinski says. “Our strategy is getting in deeper and deeper.”
Obama has said prior to the trip that he would like up to 10,000 more troops deployed to Afghanistan. Brzezinski, however, says doing so could risk a similar fate suffered by the Soviets.
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving Soviet forces supporting the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the mujahedeen resistance. Final troop withdrawal ended in 1989, but due to the interminable and inconclusive nature of the war, the conflict in Afghanistan has often been referred to as the Soviet equivalent of the United States' Vietnam War.
“We have to be careful not to overestimate the appeal of the democratic Afghan elite, because we run the risk that our military presence will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us,” Brzezinski warns, noting that Afghan society both then and now is deeply conservative and resistant to dramatic change.
“I realize that in an electoral campaign you don’t want to antagonize large groups which are highly motivated,” he says. “This is a very dangerous period of time with very unpredictable consequences. You have three countries [Iran, Israel and the U.S.] doing a kind of death dance on the basis of confusion, division and fear.”
Brzezinski says, “If we end up with war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, [and] Iran at the same time, can anyone see a more damaging prospect for America’s world role than that? That’s the fundamental foreign policy dilemma at the back of this election. A four-front war would get us involved for years . . . It would be the end of American predominance.”
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