Obama in Afghanistan: a tougher stance?

The first hints about what Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan might be, beyond “more troops:” a clearer division of labour, with the Americans concentrating on the military-security challenge and leaving development and reconstruction to “the Europeans.” (I believe, but am not certain, that that includes us.) Hamid Karzai worried for many months that a meeting he had with Joe Biden, in which Biden left in disgust after less than 10 minutes, was a bad omen about how he might be treated by any administration in which Biden played a key role. Looks like he was right: Karzai’s fortnightly video calls with the former president, for starters, will not continue under the new one.

“The Europeans” should not be naive about the burdens this division of labour, if implemented, would pose. One of the biggest reconstruction challenges is police training. The scale of European efforts on that front, though not the quality of individual trainers, has so far been risible. What if Obama and Bob Gates ask, not for 15,000 more soldiers, but for 5,000 more civilian police trainers from Bremen and Maastricht and Leeds — assigned to mentor beat cops in Kandahar and Lashkar Goh? Recall that in each of the last two years, more than 1,000 Afghan police officers have been killed on duty…