Afghan media mogul Saad Mohseni—whose Kabul-based Moby Group spans television, radio, magazines, movies, and the Internet—said the goals of President Obama’s 30,000-troop surge are laudable. Training police and Afghan military personnel, securing the population centers against violent insurgents, fighting corruption, bypassing the central government to deal directly with individual ministries and provincial governors, showing farmers how to make money with crops other than poppies—all good, Mohseni said. Pushing Pakistan to apprehend terrorists and Taliban within its borders, even better.
But Obama’s timetable for withdrawal, starting in July 2011, could potentially undermine the whole plan, Mohseni told The Daily Beast.
“As far as Afghanistan is concerned, along with Pakistan and our neighborhood, it’s obviously not a smart thing to do,” Mohseni said Tuesday night. “Because what you’re telling people is, ‘You’ve held on this long, all you have to do is hold on for another couple of years, and you’re home free, basically.’”
• Read Lloyd Grove’s profile of Saad Mohseni A worried Mohseni continued: “They’re taking the plunge anyway. They’re sending extra troops. You may as well give the impression that you’re not going to leave until the job is done. I don’t understand why they have to be so wishy-washy. [Obama’s] not going to be up for reelection until 2012. I understand what he’s doing, but you can’t be half-pregnant.”
He added: “Any war is at least 50 percent psychological. Listen, in order to really subdue the insurgency, you need hundreds of thousands of troops. Anyway, it’s a case of smoke and mirrors to a large extent. An extra 30,000 troops is not going to make a helluva lot of difference on the ground. Counterinsurgency is a decade-plus-long endeavor. Especially while you’re trying rebuild institutions for that country to defend itself.”
• More Daily Beast experts weigh in on Obama’s battle cry • Watch: 7 Key Moments of Obama’s SpeechMohseni said that by announcing a specific timetable, Obama might have ceded any psychological advantage. What’s more, he added, “We don’t know if the Afghan military or the Afghan security apparatus will have the capacity to take on the insurgency and the terrorists come 2012. The single biggest question mark is how quickly they can train the Afghan police and military personnel. So far, what we’ve seen in a country where the education level is so low, and the country has been in conflict for such a long time, is that it’s going to be a little more difficult than Iraq.”
Still, Mohseni predicted that Afghan public will react to Obama’s speech “with a sense of relief more than anything else. People will say, ‘Oh God, finally he’s coming.’ There’s absolutely no doubt that the Afghan public wishes for the international forces to continue to remain in the country. They’ll be relieved to see this, and they may not think about the timetable… But the Afghan public has heard so many promises and so many pledges, I think they will want to see what sort of a tangible difference it makes on the ground... I think they’re on the right track. All these are great ideas. I’m just not sure we have the time to able to achieve all these things.”
Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.