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30 Jun, 2010 22:11

Gen. Petraeus has been confirmed, now what?

The US Senate has unanimously confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the next commander of the war in Afghanistan. The vote was 99-0.

Petraeus replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose recent inflammatory remarks made to Rolling Stone magazine led to his resignation.

Former State Department official Matthew Hoh does not believe there will be any immediate changes to the policy in Afghanistan, but he is hopeful Petraeus will reevaluate the situation. Hoh argued that the current approach is not working and that Petraeus should do more of what he did in Iraq for Afghanistan.

Adding the extra troops to Iraq in 07 and 08 was important, but in terms of gaining stability there, there are four or five other factors that were equally important or more important,” said Hoh.

He argued that political outreach to local tribal leaders was key in bringing them onboard and gaining regional support. Hoh argued that this is the way the US should move forward in Afghanistan.

He’ll [Petraeus] reach out, try through negotiations and reconciliations and try and find political solution to, because this is really a 35 year old civil war, find a solution to those grievances and problems that have been going on for generations now there, as well as recognize that the Taliban is made up of a lot of different groups, a lot of different local groups, and you can peel them apart and you can deal with them individually and some you may not be able to reconcile, and then you just have to isolate and destroy,” said Hoh.

It is difficult to compare Iraq and Afghanistan side by side, but certain aspects can be applied to solving the problems.

Hoh argued that Afghans support the Taliban because the Taliban opposes foreign occupation. More troops equals greater Taliban support, said Hoh. Many Afghans see the Taliban as their fellow Afghan brothers.

We do not have to continue fighting in Afghanistan,” said Hoh.

He argued that reconciliation with Taliban groups can be reached and that reconciliation will open the doors to political stability.

That’s what we want. We want to have political stability there. Once you get political stability, once you have political order in place, once this vacuum has been filled, then you can make real progress in security and development,” said Hoh.

He added “We’re not going to achieve that by putting more foreign forces in there or by strengthening a corrupt and unrepresentative illegitimate and unwanted central government.”

If he were in charge, Hoh said he would call for a cease fire and pull combat troops out of the rural Pashtun region of Afghanistan. He would also open negotiations with Taliban leaders with the aim of reforming the Afghan government to include the rural Pashtun population and settle past grievances.

What we’re doing right now is just counterproductive,” said Hoh.