Bruce Riedel is a career CIA officer who is now at the Brookings Institution. He was an adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and earlier this year served as head of the “Afpak” policy review for the administration, which resulted in the dispatch of 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. He is, in short, not a person who can be dismissed as a conservative ideologue, so his views on the current Afghanistan debate are particularly noteworthy.
In this interview with the Council on Foreign Relations website (full disclosure: I work for the Council), he defends President Obama for doing another review just six months after the one that he completed, but he also warns, “At some point there is a cost to delay. And that cost comes in how our partners and how our enemies respond. Our NATO partners are already a bit squeamish. The Pakistanis are already beginning to wonder about the seriousness of the American commitment.”
He also dismisses as a “fairy tale” the notion that the Taliban could be separated from al-Qaeda or that al-Qaeda could be eliminated simply by bombing its leaders in Pakistan — both notions that are said to be gaining traction in the White House. “It’s a fairy tale,” Riedel concludes, “and it’s a prescription for disaster.”
I can only hope the president is listening to him again, as he did back in March.